Chinese developer Country Garden has been grabbing headlines - and attracting controversy - for its US$100 billion (S$139 billion) Forest City project in Johor.
It sent shock waves through the Johor property sector last year when it sold 16,000 units amid a perceived market downturn.
That is nearly twice the total number of new private homes sold in Singapore last year.
China's third-largest home builder by sales has been the subject of controversy since it announced in 2014 that it would reclaim 20 sq km of land - about the size of three Sentosa islands.
The four artificial islands - to be built near the Tuas Second Link - are expected to eventually house a population of 700,000.
The firm is now changing tack and planning to sell land and develop more commercial ventures, said Dr Yu."There will be a shift from retail to wholesale. This includes establishing joint ventures with other companies, attracting investors and sales of land," he said.
The developer has received more than 50 commercial inquiries, and is in talks with investors, such as a regional telecommunications firm.
So far, it has reclaimed about 2.24 sq km of land since March 2015, and will soon sell off plots of land.
Dr Yu declined to reveal the costs of land reclamation. However, he addressed concerns on the speed and stability of reclamation works.
About 90 per cent of the sand used in reclamation takes a year to settle, with the remaining 10 per cent usually left to settle for five to 10 years. But "time is money" for the developer so it has paid extra to pile 6m of sand - about two-storeys high - to increase pressure and speed up settlement.
The firm's method achieves a higher percentage of between 95 per cent and 98 per cent of the sand settling in six months, he added.
Dr Yu, a former World Bank analyst, said he is proud of the firm's unorthodox thinking. He added that the firm is "concerned about a weak or soft market" but it wants to be a "game changer" to grow demand.
He said: "When people do property development, in typical Western-trained thinking, they do market studies and look at what was sold before. They assume the market is of that size, but we think very differently. We think about how to grow the pie bigger," he said, adding that Forest City pulled in more than 100,000 visitors last year.
But the strategy of drawing foreign buyers, however, has raised concerns about maintenance, and whether the project will become a ghost town.
Said Dr Yu: "If just 30 per cent of Forest City unit owners move in, that's at least 4,500 people. How can a neighbourhood with 4,500 people be a ghost town?"
And Country Garden Pacificview, the unit overseeing the project, plans to set up a wholly owned property management company to manage Forest City facilities, which include gardens, highways and common areas. Maintenance fees for Forest City units are pegged at the same rate as the developer's other Johor property project in Danga Bay.
Home owners will pay RM0.35 per square foot, or about RM482 (S$155), a month in maintenance for a three-bedroom flat.
The fees paid by the the 16,000 unit owners are expected to be enough to cover the maintenance of facilities, he said.
When asked whether the firm will absorb costs if too few owners pay maintenance fees, Dr Yu said he does not think such a scenario would come about. He added that the firm has made long-term plans for the upkeep of the project.
The developer's ambition has invited scrutiny. In March, it was hit by China's tightening of capital controls and had to temporarily close its showrooms in China promoting the Forest City project.
Dr Yu said the controls prompted the firm to bring its internationalisation strategy forward by six months, to target buyers from Asean countries, as well as Taiwan, India and the Middle East.
Internationalisation and commercial ventures have been part of its strategy from the beginning, Dr Yu said. He added that the firm conducted an around-the-world study of new townships, and emerged with a key finding - that "new townships cannot survive without job creation".
Without government funds for infrastructure and facilities, real estate sales are needed to sustain cash flow, he said.
The Guangzhou-based developer has invested RM4.6 billion in Forest City and will be investing another RM5 billion. Dr Yu said the Forest City project is not yet profitable, but hopes it will get into the black by next year as it expands its commercial and overseas marketing.
He said: "When we first started, people said the Iskandar property market was very soft. How could we have survived? We had to start in a market that we were very familiar with."
Although it decided initially to target Chinese buyers, it now has buyers from 23 countries.
"The vision of Forest City has never been a Chinatown," Dr Yu said.
"We always understood that it cannot be a single-race township and it should be open for everyone," he added.