The amazing, personal story of Westlake’s founder, T.M. Chang, began in rural China where, at the age of 13, his poor family sent him to make his way in the world with the highest value items they owned – 20 jars of pickles. An entrepreneur from those early days, Mr. Chang eventually made his way to Japan and began a business of selling vitamins door to door, building it into a very successful business. This humble beginning was the start to an epic journey that ultimately led him to achieve great success in Japan in the pharmaceutical industry. Desiring to own real estate and being unable to do so in Japan, Mr. Chang sold his company and arrived in San Francisco with his wife and four children in 1972. To teach himself English and the tax benefits of various types of businesses, he read the Internal Revenue Code – twice. He learned that owning real estate had many benefits so he began buying real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of the properties in the current Westlake Urban portfolio were purchased in those early years.
T.M. Chang had an investment strategy with a single requirement – if he were to buy a property, he must be able to drive to it and return home in time for dinner with his family. While there have been inevitable ups and downs and challenges over the years, the wisdom of Mr. Chang’s investment strategy has become crystal clear in recent years as the properties, which are located predominantly in the “first ring Bay Area suburbs”, have become ever more valuable.
As Westlake Urban builds for a new generation of Bay Area residents, we are finding that they value the properties that Mr. Chang purchased – properties that enjoy a more urban, transit-rich environment. They value diversity and connection and, like previous generations before them, they want to make their way in the world in a different and more interconnected environment than that of their parents.
T.M. Chang created an important legacy with his portfolio of properties and their locations have withstood the test of time. Now, the portfolio and the communities in which the properties are located are ripe for re-imagining in the 21st century. In transforming these properties, Westlake Urban seeks to not just re-create but to innovate – moving beyond easy, formulaic development patterns to build properties that add vibrancy to urban communities.
These are the communities where we choose to invest, and this is what we believe. And like T.M. Chang, we also like being home for dinner!
Note: Mr. Chang is now in his mid-nineties and the properties and the companies he founded have been passed on to a family trust.