“Work, work and work harder” has been the long time mantra of real estate mogul Sam Chang.
BY TRONE DOWD
Today, Chang is the founder and owner of McSam Hotel Group LLC. But as he told the Queens Tribune, his journey through the world of real estate wasn’t one in which he started out. In fact, the move was originally about living a more comfortable and fulfilling life.
Born in Taiwan, Chang’s family moved to Japan when he was just a child. In 1977, the family would move to the United States to forge a new beginning. Starting out in Los Angeles, Chang helped his family with their mostly successful business venture—running an 11-room Richard’s Motel in the city’s downtown area.
Soon afterward, Chang would break out on his own. He managed to make some money after launching a Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area at age 18. All the while, he began testing the waters of real estate by flipping homes. At the time, this wasn’t a focus for him, but he relied on it as a side gig for additional funds to support himself. But the taste of real estate work left him aching for a career change.
“I always felt pretty greasy working in a restaurant,” he said. “After getting started buying and selling real estate, I found out that it was much better work.”
By the early 1980s, Chang committed to real estate fully. He picked up and moved to Baltimore. Here, Chang would once again operate a succession of Chinese restaurants. This time, however, he was focused on bringing in money to fund his new passion. He ended up using the money from his restaurant to buy his first hotel in Hagerstown, Maryland.
The investment snowballed from there. In 1990, enlisting the help of both family and Taiwanese investors, Sam managed to assemble a dozen hotels between Boston and Washington, D.C. He would later move to New York City in 1993. But he had a rough start after moving to the five boroughs, losing nearly all of his assets in the mid 1990s amid an economic recession.
“I wasn’t an expert,” he said. “I knew some things about the real estate industry, but that still happened.”
He said that he managed to bounce back using the failure as a learning experience. By the turn of the 21st century, Sam would turn things around, becoming the owner of 21 hotels across the nation in an operation known as the McSam Hotel Group.
The hotel developer, which is based out of Great Neck, has become one of the largest in New York City.
Most recently, Chang filed plans for a 172,640-square-foot hotel on a vacant lot at 140-146 West 24th St. in Manhattan and, late last year, announced plans to snag a vacant spot in Koreatown.
Over the years, Chang has earned a reputation for his ability to recall facts about the industry and his properties. With little effort, he can rattle off the number of hotels, the number of rooms in each and how much he paid for a particular parcel of land.
When it comes to comparing different markets across the nation, Chang said that he is most excited about New York.
“The Washington, D.C. area was alright, but New York City was a much better market,” he said. “That’s what brought me out here. It is just full of opportunity—lots and lots of opportunity for you to get into. It’s a bigger city. It was just better for me.”
Looking toward Flushing, Chang said that the developing Queens neighborhood was a jewel of the borough due to its diversity and activity.
“It’s such a unique area—especially when you compared what it is now to 10 years ago, it’s a totally different city,” he said.
He added that despite the numerous opportunities in New York City, he has been left with a conundrum.
Now—more than any other location—the city is drawing investors from around the world who are trying to turn a profit. He said that this has led to a rush of development in Flushing.
“I really think Flushing is overdeveloped,” he said. “I’d like to see it slow down. It’s not too fast, it’s just too much. I don’t think we need to see so many condos and commercial development in downtown Flushing.”
Reach reporter Trone Dowd by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 123.