Grace Wu, the Sydney property developer with a billion dollar pipeline

Grace Wu is the Executive director of Bridgestone Projects, Norwest Developments and Megaward Property Group and who oversees a billion dollar pipeline of residential projects throughout the rapidly gentrifying areas of Castle Hill, Redfern, Campsie and major business and residential district of Chatswood.

New South Wales is Australia’s largest state in terms of the size of its highly multicultural population. Growth rates for the state have been reliably strong for decades which forms the basis for successful developers such as Bridgestone who plan decades ahead to meet the demands of the growth for housing.

Grace Wu
Grace Wu, successful Shanghai-born property developer focussed on the Sydney market.

With over twelve years experience in property sales, marketing and business strategy and tertiary qualified in accounting and finance, Grace Wu’s rise from more modest property developments to large-scale projects that span Western Sydney barely fazes her. The growth of my portfolio over a decade has been organic and largely driven by the success of each project that has come before it.

When asked about how she handles the daily stress, her response is nonchalant. “I like to attend to my two young children each day – reading to them each evening is very relaxing for me.” Hailing from a Shanghainese background, the Chinese city famed for its business-savvy citizens and historical connections to the west, the ability to practice work-life balance comes easily to her.

From 2013 to 2018, Grace completed seven house and land packages in the Sydney suburbs of Rouse Hill, Schofields and Kellyville – each one selling in rapid succession. By 2018, Grace broadened her ambitions, and more significant sites with high-density housing were sought. “We finished one high-density project in Waitara, in which the purchasers we surveyed rated the project with zero defects. I am very proud of this fact.”

Grace’s successfully completed Chateau Castle Hill project resulted in four buildings with 296 apartments instilled a sense of confidence and a sense of purpose. “I know my role, as a developer, is to lead the market and offer something new and fresh all the time.”

Grace Wu
Chateau Castle Hill project

An avid observer of overseas trends, Grace devours books about American design trends and pays close attention to what world-class architects do in terms of emerging design philosophies, colour palettes and innovative building finishes and materials.

While Australians born in the eighties tend to be perhaps more conservative in tastes and preferences, Grace has found that her customer base is emerging from those born during the eighties and nineties. “This generation is social media-centric and what’s going on in America, England, Switzerland and even in Singapore influences them a great deal.

My job is to monitor this group closely and deliver aspirational projects that are exciting and fresh.” Balinese resort-style influences are presently trending and Grace is capturing this mood in her urban designs. “People are seeking a place to relax and feel a sense of community – the traditional Javanese approach to design offers spirituality and calmness that is highly desirable for this new generation of home-owners.”

Formal education and intellectual capacity is no guarantee of business success – other ingredients are necessary. For Grace, receiving remarkable mentorship from one of Australia’s best known and most prolific private developer, Harry Triguboff has been a major influencer on her professional life.

“Harry and his wife, Rhonda, have been good friends of my husband and myself for over a decade and his wealth of knowledge and tremendous memory is amazing.”

Harry Oskar Tribuboff AO was born in Liaoning, China in 1933 to Russian Jewish parents who as a family arrived in Australia in 1947. Harry became an Australian citizen in 1960. He and the company, Meriton Apartments he founded is credited with supplying more than 55,000 residential townhouses and apartments to the Sydney market.

Grace Wu
Grace Wu with veteran Sydney developer, Harry Oskar Tribuboff AO

“Harry wisely said to me from the beginning of our conversations that the most important key to a successful project is to do your homework and buy a good location at a price that affords you a buffer or margin against potential downsides.” As a trained accountant with a Chinese educational background, I have a good head for calculation. That is why I can feel so comfortable about starting any project – my calculations are usually very sound.” Another quality she brings to her craft is a standard of product that she must feel personally proud. Shanghainese people, are known for their love of the arts and insisting on surrounding themselves with good aesthetics where ever they live.

Grace has to this point, given attention to metropolitan Sydney to the exclusion of outside markets such a Victoria and Queensland. “I am personally quite an ambitious person myself and I have had these sorts of discussions with my mentor, Harry, over the years. He has never gone beyond Sydney for his projects. He always said to me that Sydney is the best city in Australia and the population of people to buy different types of housing products is so much deeper than other Australian cities. In Sydney, he had all his resources and contacts concentrated in one place, which has made it easier for him to oversee. I tend to follow this way of thinking.”

She does make an acute observation between Sydney apartments and Melbourne apartments. “Melbourne seems to offer lots of small, tight two-bedroom apartments of around 50 square metres. In Sydney, you will find that the majority of two-bedroom apartments are between 75 square metres to 85 square metres.”

The overriding business philosophy of Grace to build her property empire is to gather around her company a growing group of loyal customer supporters – people that will make money with her as she expands her portfolio of completed projects. She cites an Australian property company, Mirvac of having this kind of corporate culture. “I am a strong believer that we resist the temptation of offering a super-expensive project that appeals to an elite group. I believe that there is more to gain by offering a product that is very reasonably priced, offers excellent long- term upside for the customer so they form part of our loyal and growing fan base.”

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