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Chinese investors fund New York observation wheel

Reporter: Liling Tan 丨 CCTV.com

07-19-2015 05:10 BJT

People may have heard of the High Roller in Las Vegas; the Singapore Flyer in Singapore; and the Star of Nanchang in China; and, of course, the London Eye. But now, New York is raising the bar, quite literally, by building its own observation wheel and the half-a-billion-US-dollar project is being partly-funded by Chinese investors seeking green cards.

At more than 190 meters, the New York Wheel on Staten Island would be the world’s tallest observation wheel. Construction is underway on this 8-acre plot, where the wheel will rise about sixty stories high, twice the height of this adjoining building.

But the project stands out for another reason. It is being one-third funded by Chinese investors using a visa program called EB-5 that grants foreigners green cards in exchange for investments in high unemployment areas.

Noyes from New York Wheel & Empire Outlets said:“The New York Wheel identified the EB-5 program as a unique funding source for the New York Wheel, which isn’t traditionally an easy thing to finance in the United States because it’s not like a mall or a housing project. So EB-5 was a way we could get a project going and the Chinese investors are currently the biggest source of subscribers for the EB-5 program.”

Travis Noyes says its doubtful that full construction mode would have been possible without the visa program and Chinese investors, who are putting in $170 million dollars.

This is what the project is going to look like when it completes some time in the summer of 2017. And on the waterfront overlooking New York Bay and the skyline of Manhattan, there's already a popular destination among Chinese investors. But now, with the New York Wheel project, Chinese property investors can own a different kind of New York’s real estate.

It seems like a win-win arrangement and Chinese investors get their permanent residency.

“I think the Chinese view the EB-5 as an opportunity to leapfrog the slow and inefficient visa process and create the ability for them to come into the United States and to be able to get established,” said Ralph Winnie Jr. from the Eurasia Center.

And America gets money to fund projects like these, and create jobs in the process. Ralph Winnie Jr. also said:“An opportunity to have money, foreign direct investment to come in from other countries, an opportunity to provide employment opportunities for American citizens. That’s why the EB-5 allows them to make sure that the money is in a targeted employment area in an under-served community to provide tenable jobs, to be able to ensure that Americans are employed.”

The EB-5 program has been gaining popularity. As part of Staten Island’s revamp, Empire Outlets is building New York City’s first shopping outlet a stone’s throw from the New York Wheel, and their team is now in China looking to raise $175 million dollars.

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