South Florida by the numbers: Focus on EB-5 visa program

Sep.September 19, 2016 08:45 AM

“South Florida By The Numbers” is a web feature that catalogues the most notable, quirky and surprising real estate statistics.

It is the hottest investment source in South Florida real estate development. It can create thousands of local jobs, and pump millions of dollars into our economy. It has helped build “cultural bridges” with foreign investors, and assisted them in becoming U.S. citizens. But it has also been used as a vehicle for fraud, criticized for allowing rich foreign investors to jump the line for citizenship, and manipulated to benefit wealthy urban areas.

We describe, of course, the EB-5 visa program: a process that allows foreigners to invest in local businesses that employ American workers in (supposedly) economically depressed areas, in return for a short and smooth path to U.S. citizenship for these investors and their families. Congress will decide whether or not to allow the EB-5 program (in its current form) to expire at the end of this month, and while it has many supporters, there is also a serious call for reform to tighten some loopholes. How has the program impacted South Florida, and what does its future hold?

Let’s take a look in this EB-5 edition of “South Florida by the Numbers.”

$500,000: Minimum amount an EB-5 participant can invest into a local business, including real estate projects. Created in 1990, the program was originally intended to spark development in rural or “targeted” areas with high unemployment, but critics say it has veered too far off course. [NYT]

Nearly 85 percent: That’s the national percentage of EB-5 immigration visas granted to Chinese investors. Here in South Florida, the program has been instrumental in luring major Chinese development, including the CCCC Miami Towers, a mixed-use project in the Brickell area anticipated to create close to 10,000 jobs and inject nearly $1 billion into the economy. [Miami Herald]

1,000 feet: Height of the planned $430 million SkyRise Miami tower project, which will include a restaurant, viewing platforms, rides, a night club, ballroom, and private entertainment facility. Developer Jeff Berkowitz has the project approved for EB-5 investment, and even has an EB-5-specific website targeting prospective investors. [CNBC]

19: Number of foreign EB-5 investors who bought into the Riviera Point Business Center Doral; a $9.5 million, 41,000-square-foot office center recently opened at 1500 Northwest 89th Court. This marks the second EB-5 funded project for the development group; the first was the Professional Center at Riviera Point in Miramar; also the first EB-5 funded office complex in Broward County. [The Real Deal]

4 million square feet: Planned for the 65-acre Metropica project in Sunrise, near Sawgrass Mills. Once completed, Metropica will include retail space, park and recreational facilities and 1,900 residences. (Hotels and public spaces geared toward visual and performing arts are also planned.) The developers of the project recently announced their intention to seek EB-5 funding. [DBR]

This column is produced by the Master Brokers Forum, a network of South Florida’s elite real estate professionals where membership is by invitation only and based on outstanding production, as well as ethical and professional behavior.

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