A developer in China is exploring the possibility of building a multifamily development in Tyler on a large area of land that has been vacant for years.

Adams Engineering is starting to perform due diligence work on a 178-acre property just off the intersection of west southwest Loop 323 and the Earl Cambell Parkway, near Sam’s Club.

The 178-acre parcel is a subdivision of a larger piece of land that has been considered for various uses over the years, including a possible master-planned community.

Karen Lee is the Dallas-based representative for the developer, Xing Tan. She describes Tan as a very successful businessman and congressman in the Guizhou Province in China.

Tan’s company is called America Hongyun City International Enterprise Group, LLC, according to Lee. There are multiple investors involved in the project, she said.

Tan’s vision is to build an East-meets-West community called Hongyun City with multifamily and single-family homes that would be marketed in the American and Chinese markets, according to Lee.

Lee said Tan has done a project in China where he essentially tore down a city and then rebuilt it. Lee said he loves American culture and sees an opportunity to combine the culture with the successes from the Chinese project.

Most of the Chinese residents who live in the community would be exchange students in high school or college, Lee said. The developer is looking at whether he can work with locals to build a new private school, she added.

“We love Tyler,” Lee said. “Tyler is such a beautiful place.”

Lee said the parcel is a convenient place within Tyler for residents to access local businesses, go shopping and eat at restaurants.

She said the project is in a waiting period to determine if it can move forward. She said the project could start in late June if it's determined to be feasible, and construction would finish in two to three years.

The parcel has been eyed for various developments over the years, including mixed-use housing. An adjacent subdivision of the land that sits closer to Loop 323 has been eyed for retail space.

Bryan Rossman, the director of operations for Adams Engineering in Tyler, said the current developer has been looking at the property more seriously than ones in the past and stepped “well into the process” of moving forward.

However, he said that there are years of upgrades that need to be done to extend drinking water, sewer and other infrastructure to make the land livable. Additionally, the developer may need to build a road to connect the community, he said.

“One of the reasons that piece of property has been underdeveloped for a long time is the part of infrastructure has never been committed to by the developer,” Rossman said. “Infrastructure means water, sewer, roadway, all of the things that make the land habitable.”

Marty Crawford, the superintendent of Tyler Independent School District, said Rossman briefed him on the project back in October or November, but still has limited information about the project.

“The first round of students that we could see is possibly in 2021 and that is all the information that I have right now,” Crawford said. He said the number he heard was 3,000 to 5,000 students over a long period of time.

"It does make me nervous," Crawford said. "I’m a little concerned about the lack of information as far as it goes in preparing for something like that, from the school district’s point of view."

Julie Goodgame, the spokesperson for the city of Tyler, said no application for any land use has been received by the city and that would be the first step in the development process.

“Should this project be brought forward to the city, all comment would be made at open meetings as part of the planning and zoning process,” she wrote in an email.

Tom Mullins, the president and CEO of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, called the parcel near the West Loop the “jewel” of the city.

“It’s very unusual for a community our size to have that big block of land totally undeveloped,” Mullins said. He pointed to the proximity to the highway and the airport.

“I’ve always felt that that area is prime for some major project,” Mullins said. “I just don’t know if this is the one.”