Jasper Wu, ZD Jasper take a photo at the Manhattan Condo Market

What’s in a name? For Jasper Wu, his real estate destination.

Great Neck native ZD Jasper has carried his name since his father Tom Zhidong Wu founded it in 1996, around the time Jasper was learning to ride a bike or play basketball.

As a message about where his son might find a career, it was not lacking in clarity.

However, like many real estate growers, Jasper Wu didn’t go straight from grad school (Cornell, Columbia Business School) to the family business. He had gigs at accounting giant EY as a robotics consultant and at the NBA analyzing rule changes and referee integrity.

Since joining ZD Jasper in 2019 and learning about the company from different angles — he is certified as a financial analyst, construction inspector, site safety supervisor and general contractor — the 30-year-old vice president has helped build his father’s Queens-focused company to turn in a new direction: west, to Manhattan.

Despite rising interest rates and a stagnant land market, the developer managed to purchase several sites from Gary Barnett’s Extell Development for $122 million in 2022 and 2023. Jasper wants to build 390 condominium apartments on these sites.

These units could fetch more than $1 billion, according to data firm Marketproof, based on the average price of $2.7 million for new apartments in Manhattan in March.

Most are in Hudson Yards: 185 units are underway as part of a Passive House project at 501 Ninth Avenue, nearly 130 are planned at 430 West 37th Street and 52 units are coming to 439 West 36th Street. A boutique apartment project on the Upper East Side, the central district’s busiest area for new construction, rounds out the Manhattan Pipeline.

Jasper Wu, ZD Jasper take a photo at the Manhattan Condo Market
501 Ninth Avenue (Archimaera Architecture PC)

Bob Knakal, who represented Extell on the Hudson Yards deals, said the younger Wu “was aware of all the details and was very involved.”

“It has potential,” says developer George Xu. “With the expansion of Manhattan, he is moving in the right direction.”

The Queen’s Gambit

Just after Jasper joined ZD Jasper, the company completed a 58-unit condo project at 5 Court Square in Long Island City, according to its LinkedIn page, which received a lot of attention in the New York Times.

The project is one of 11 that ZD Jasper has completed in Queens, along with a close circle of Asian real estate professionals who favor the suburb. They include architect Raymond Chan, investor Jerry Pi, George Xu and his brother Chris Jiashu Xu, who built One Skyline Tower, the tallest building in Queens.

Jasper Wu, ZD Jasper take a photo at the Manhattan Condo Market
5 Court Square, 45-30 Pearson Street and 27-19 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City (ZD Jasper)

“ZD Jasper projects are typically designed for the Chinese buyer,” says Michael Bethoney, director of new construction at Nest Seekers International, which used ZD Jasper to build 5 Court Square, 45-30 Pearson Street (130 units) and 27-19 Thomson Avenue ( 34 units).

Bethoney plays weekly games of basketball in Long Island City with Jasper, who declined to be interviewed. “Jasper’s a pretty good shot,” he noted.

This also seems to be the case in the developing world. Despite the many pitfalls in the sector, The real deal could not find any data on bankruptcies, bankruptcies, scandals or lawsuits involving ZD Jasper.

While Jasper’s father had experience developing real estate in China, upon arriving in the U.S. in 1991, he started a computer sales and service company that is still active today. The earliest record TRD ZD Jasper in New York City was in 1996, the year of its founding. It purchased a four-story commercial building in Midtown South, at 18 West 38th Street, which it still owns.

Records show that the company did not become a productive builder until the mid-2010s. However, the use of limited liability companies in real estate can make it challenging to know all of a developer’s activities. On its website, ZD Jasper says it has built a dozen buildings totaling more than 1,000 units.

Today, some condo developers have put the brakes on projects given high financing costs and uncertainty in the credit market.

“Everyone is laying low because it’s tough out there,” said Jerry Pi of Pi Capital Partners, a father-son firm based in Flushing with projects in Queens and Manhattan. “The feds are cracking down on the banks, and debt funds are expensive.”

Yet ZD Jasper has found a way to buy sites and start development from the ground up. “ZD Jasper is a fast builder,” Pi noted, “and that is their advantage.”

Jasper has rarely appeared in public. One exception: A promotional video he made for a job posting website revealed that ZD Jasper insists that his employees speak Mandarin. The requirement speaks to the importance of culture at the company, which as a minority-owned business has special access to certain public and private contracts.

More than ten years ago Jasper launched his student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun, a glimpse into the philosophies that might explain his entry into Manhattan – a market known for its competitiveness, complexity, risk and reward.

“Every chess player knows you have to think ahead,” Jasper, president of the Cornell chess club, said in 2012. “It’s important to make a strategy and think things through.”

Another lesson from the game that he seems to have applied to his real estate career is that failure is inevitable and is no reason not to take risks.

“It is impossible never to lose a game in chess,” he told the newspaper, “just as it is impossible never to make a mistake in life.”

read more