ITHACA, N.Y. — Talk about big-ticket purchases. A Chinese development firm has purchased the Gun Hill Apartments for nearly $22.4 million.

The $22,375,000 purchase was filed with Tompkins County Clerk yesterday afternoon for the apartments located at 210 Lake St. in Ithaca. Morgan Gun Hill LLC, a limited-liability company formed to represent Morgan Communities, sold the property to Ithaca Gunhill Property LLC.

A check of the LLC filing indicates that the company was formed by DMG Investments LLC of New York. The firm is an American subsidiary of a Chinese development firm, DoThink Group of Hangzhou. The company has been active in Upstate New York recently, playing the part of con-investory in a new 322-bed student housing apartment in Albany. A real estate trade publication indicates that Suntrust Bank, a regional bank based out of the Southeastern United States, lent $13.3 million to DMG in an acquisition loan.

Economically, the firm stands to benefit from Ithaca’s lucrative and fairly stable student housing market. However, the investment may also have some political airs. Chinese firms have engaged in real estate and property investments outside of China for years, as a way to grow and maintain their financial assets beyond the reach of the Chinese government.

With the purchase comes a change in namethe Gun Hill Apartments will now be called “Auden Ithaca”. Auden is the name the firm gave to its Albany project, as well as a student apartment complex it recently purchased in Houston. Rather noticeably, the company misspelled Ithaca in some of its webpages as “audenithica.com“.

Built in 1989, the 96-unit, 273-bed student-oriented apartment complex has quietly been on the multi-family real estate market since 2017. The sales brochure touted the property’s below-market rents for its location, and the potential to significantly raise rent with modest renovations. In the announcement of the acquisition loan, it was noted that the complex enjoys nearly 100% full occupancy. No redevelopment or major structural additions to the property are anticipated.

Rochester-based Morgan Communities purchased the property in February 2011 for $6.15 million, and the current county assessment for Gun Hill is $12.65 million. Robert Morgan, family members and business associates were raided by the FBI last year, and Morgan along with several others has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank as part of a half-billion dollar real estate scheme. Gun Hill was not named in the multiple properties listed in the indictment.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.