A rendering of the New York wheel on Staten Island, which is partially funded by Chinese investors through the immigrant invest programs, also known as "EB-5". (Photo/Provided to China Daily)
What will become the world's tallest Ferris wheel is getting one third of its funding from Chinese investors.
The gigantic Ferris wheel now under construction on Staten Island, with a price tag of $500 million, has received $170 million in funding from Chinese investors through the federal EB-5 immigrant investor program, which grants green cards to foreign investors in exchange for job-creating investments in the United States.
"The New York Wheel identified the EB-5 program as a unique funding source, which isn't traditionally an easy thing to finance in the United States because it's not like a mall or a housing project," said Travis Noyes, chief marketing officer at New York Wheel, the project's developer. "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."
The New York Wheel will be 630 feet high with 36 "pods" that can hold 40 people each. The top of the wheel will be about 60 stories high, and will provide panoramic views of the New York skyline.
Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2017.
Located in the St. George section Staten Island, known as the terminal for the Staten Island Ferry, the wheel, which will cost $35 to ride, is expected to become another attraction for millions of tourists who ride the ferry each year past the Statue of Liberty.
Among the $170 million raised from China investors, $20 million has been identified by the New York Wheel EB-5 arranger CanAm Enterprises, and $150 million has been funded from 300 Chinese EB-5 investors.
Noyes said the rest of the wheel's funding has been raised through debt and equity investors.
"Adjacent to the Wheel will be NYC's first premium outlet center named Empire Outlets. This project will have over 100 retail stores and a hotel. (Empire Outlets and the Wheel have different investment groups). Both projects are now in full construction mode," Noyes wrote in an e-mail to China Daily.
According to CCTV.com, the Empire Outlet's team is now in China looking to raise $175 million.
The EB-5 program was created by the U.S. Congress in 1990 to stimulate the domestic economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.
Participants are required to invest $500,000 (in a high unemployment area) or $1 million elsewhere and create or sustain at least 10 jobs.
The New York Wheel project is expected to create 400 permanent jobs and add roughly 5,000 construction and indirect jobs in an area where the poverty rate exceeds 20 percent.
Noyes said the EB-5 investors and their families are expected to be issued temporary immigrant visas within a year. And after the wheel is built, if the required jobs are created, the investors and their families will receive permanent green cards, after which they will be eligible for U.S. citizenship.
Moreover, investors will be able to receive 2.75 percent interest on their money during a six-year payback period, provided the project is a success.
Over the last few years, the EB-5 program has grown in popularity in China.
In 2014, about 90 percent of EB-5 visas were issued to Chinese nationals, compared with just 13 percent in 2004, according to the U.S. State Department. China is the main source country of high net-worth investors looking to settle in the U.S..