Durst taps EB-5 program to finance Astoria waterfront building

Majority of the Hallets Point development was shelved after expiration of 421a

Jul.July 29, 2016 05:20 PM

Life, liberty and the pursuit of capital.

The Durst Organization is looking to raise a quarter of the funds for a residential building at its Hallets Point project from immigrants looking for green cards.

The developer is seeking to raise $100 million through the EB-5 program for Building 1 of the Astoria waterfront development, a Durst TRData LogoTINY spokesperson confirmed. EB-5 is a federal program that gives investors willing to plow at least $500,000 into job-creating projects in the U.S. a path to citizenship.

The building is slated to cost a total of $400 million. It is part of Hallets Point, which was initially slated to comprise 2,000 residential units across several buildings. But those plans were shelved after the expiration of the 421a tax abatement, with the developer maintaining it would not be financially viable to build the housing without the abatement.

The only building now certain to rise at the site is Building 1, which will hold 405 units, about a fifth of them affordable, plus a supermarket. It’s scheduled to open in 2018 and construction is already underway.

It’s not the first time Durst has tapped the EB-5 program, which is dominated by Chinese investors, for cash. The company also used EB-5 money to help finance the development of 625 West 57th Street, a Bjarke Ingels-designed rental building in Midtown West.

The EB-5 program, which is up for renewal in September, is controversial, with critics saying the money more often goes to fund glitzy high-rises for the 1 percent than to projects in the struggling communities the program was designed to reinvigorate.

Jordan Barowitz, director of external affairs at Durst, was keen to emphasize that this project was located in a low-employment area.

“We’re using EB-5 to create jobs and build affordable housing housing in a neighborhood that has historic and persistent poverty,” he said.

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