What do Chinese Investors & LeBron James have in Common?
Chinese investors, along with LeBron James & the NBA Cavaliers are bringing life back to Cleveland, Ohio.
Once the fourth-largest city in the United States, Cleveland boomed in the steel industry. After the recession in 2008, home values in the city dropped as much as 90%. From a population of 900,000 in 1950, the city is home to an estimated 385,000. Cleveland was once so desolate, that a city councilman said on public radio that a bowling ball could be rolled down main street without hitting anyone.
But Cleveland has had a resurgence, so much so that it was the site for the Republican Presidential Nominating Convention in July. And in June, some 1.3 million people crowded into the downtown area to salute the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers as the city celebrated its first major professional sports title since 1964.
Real estate developers say the city's resurgence might not have happened if they had not received some timely assistance - money - that has come largely from Chinese immigrant investors and the EB-5 visa program. Of eight projects built at a total cost of $2.3 billion, the fund claims that foreign investors have provided more than $220 million, and of that amount, Chinese immigrants have been responsible for roughly 85 percent.
EB-5 financing was a key element for an office building and hotel becoming a reality. That money has flowed into not only the East Bank offices and hotel, but also into a $70 million renovation project that created a 484-room Westin Hotel, two blocks from City Hall. EB-5 financing also provided $13 million for one of the city's most ambitious historic renovations, the Ninth and Euclid project, which saved a vacant 29-story skyscraper and created a new hotel, nightclub and luxury grocery store.
Several miles away, amid sprawling medical campuses near Cleveland's border with suburban Cleveland Heights, the fund contributed $60 million in EB-5 investments to finance the Ahuja Medical Center and Seidman Cancer Center, two new state-of-the-art healthcare facilities serving Cleveland and patients from across the world. The project also created more than 5,500 jobs. Nearby, $26 million helped put together 30,000 square feet of retail and student apartment space near the campus of Case Western Reserve University.
More than $36 million in EB-5 funding went into Crocker Park, a 600,000-square-foot outdoor shopping mall in the Cleveland suburbs. The program provided $24 million to complete the second phase of Flats East Bank, the project to turn the desolate end of Cleveland's riverfront into an entertainment space. Two years after it opened, nearly all of 200 luxury apartments at the new portion of that project are occupied, illuminated at night by bold face red neon letters that project "East Bank Flats" across the river.