By Lian Zi in San Francisco (China Daily USA)Updated: 2014-08-28 11:29
An artist's rendering of the $8 billion San Francisco Shipyard project. Provided to China Daily
Thanks to the EB-5 money-for-visa program, many wealthy Chinese investors are helping revive one of San Francisco's most ambitious development projects, a project that will help lift one of the city's worst neighborhoods out of poverty.
The $8 billion, 775-acre Shipyards project in San Francisco's southeastern impoverished black neighborhoods of Hunters Point and Candlestick Point lay dormant for years because of lack of funding.
"The idea for this project began nearly 20 years ago," said David Satterfield, a spokesman for Lennar Urban, the developer of Shipyards. "Planning involved much community input and governmental and environmental approvals.The US financial crisis from 2007 to 2010 slowed the project and EB-5 money has helped get it re-started."
The project is expected to extend over 20 years. "We expect to raise about $200 million in the first two years through the EB-5 program," he said.
Satterfield said this project is attractive to Chinese investors because it creates jobs, which is an important part of the EB-5 requirement, adding that San Francisco is also a very attractive city for Chinese investors.
Lennar Urban signed extensive community benefits agreements with the local government, according to San Francisco's office of economic and workforce development.
The project will create 12,000 new homes, a regional retail center, offices and more than 300 acres of parks in an area where, according to police, the homicide rates are nearly five times the city's average.
Shipyards will provide a number of additional community benefits. "The local community has been very supportive," said Satterfield.
According to the project's community benefits program, about 30 percent of the housing will be sold below market price to local residents.
Other benefits include an education scholarship fund for local residents, investments in community health facilities, 4.8 acres of improved land for additional community facilities, renovated space for the Shipyard's artists at affordable rates and improved land for a possible arts center.
Chinese investors can obtain American green cards through the federal EB-5 program when they invest in the Shipyards project, according to Ginny Fang, CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Center, which is a co-operator on the Shipyards project.
Congress created the EB-5 investor visa program in 1990, offering a green card for cash investment in the US to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Foreigners can obtain permanent residency by making a $1 million investment in a new commercial enterprise or $500,000 into a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) with higher unemployment rates, said Fang.
Data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) show that 6,346 EB-5 petitions were received last year with more than $3.25 billion in capital formation, said Fang. "Approximately 80 percent were from Chinese applicants," she said
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