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Executive overseeing Metropolis development in downtown L.A. resigns

I-Fei Chang, chief executive of Greenland USA, looks over the site of its $1-billion Metropolis Los Angeles hotel, condo and shopping complex last year. The company said she has resigned for “personal reasons.”
I-Fei Chang, chief executive of Greenland USA, looks over the site of its $1-billion Metropolis Los Angeles hotel, condo and shopping complex last year. The company said she has resigned for “personal reasons.”
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

I-Fei Chang, who has steered the $1-billion Metropolis project set to alter the Los Angeles skyline, has suddenly resigned from the Chinese company building the hotel, condo and shopping complex.

The U.S. arm of Shanghai-based Greenland Group said Chang — who established a reputation as an aggressive developer as she pushed the massive project near Staples Center forward at a fast pace — departed as the subsidiary’s chief executive for “personal reasons.”

“I’ve always been driven by the excitement of new beginnings and am incredibly proud of what the team has accomplished,” Chang said in a statement released by Greenland. “As I look to the future, I hope to help others break new ground.” Chang, who also oversaw an even larger $4.6-billion mixed-use project in Brooklyn, did not respond to requests for comment.

Gang Hu, a former executive vice president and a founding member of the company’s U.S. subsidiary, Greenland USA, will replace Chang.

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He will be based in New York, but will travel often to L.A., Greenland spokeswoman Cecilia Fan said.

Hu was not available for an interview, Fan said.

The Metropolis project will feature more than 1,500 condominiums, 350 hotel rooms and retail in four towers along the 110 Freeway.

Greenland is also working with the city and business leaders to create Avenue of the Angels, a pedestrian thoroughfare with shops, restaurants and bars intended to link downtown’s South Park neighborhood with the financial district. It would pass by Metropolis.

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In an unusual move, Chang had construction underway on both phases of the project at once: a first phase with an 18-story, 350-room hotel and a 38-story, 308-unit condo tower, and a second phase with two high-rises totaling about 1,200 condos.

Last year, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the complex, she boldly declared that the four enormous buildings would go up “fast.” The first phase is scheduled to be completed late next year and the second in 2018.

It was a promise that some developers dismissed as the naive statement of a newcomer unfamiliar with America’s dreaded permitting process.

But the six-acre parcel, which sat barren as successive real estate busts derailed the promised “city within a city,” is now a hub of activity.

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Greenland issued a statement Wednesday that the projects will proceed “without delay.” Fan said 65% of the condo units in the first phase have committed buyers.

Downtown real estate agent Kerry Marsico said that even if Greenland misses its 2016 and 2018 timelines, they’re unlikely to face much competition, because developers have been focused on apartments, not for-sale units.

“The demand is intense and there is just not supply,” he said.

A Taiwan native with a Yale architecture degree, Chang started her career in Japan during its last real estate boom, before getting involved with large-scale projects in China. Greenland Group’s chairman eventually tapped her to run the firm’s U.S. mega projects, including the dormant Metropolis site that the company scooped up for nearly $150 million last year.

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Chang, who lived in a rented apartment overlooking the Metropolis site while in Los Angeles, told The Times earlier this year that developers and city leaders should act while momentum downtown is strong.

“We need to bring in more believers and really move city development and create more jobs,” she said.

Chang told Bloomberg News in an interview this week that she planned to work as a consultant with other companies, perhaps start-ups, looking to move into new markets.

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

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Twitter: @khouriandrew


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