Mayor to Mayor: Parker Indicates Brown’s East Downtown Green Card Hotel Project Would Qualify for Tax Breaks

An effort led by former Houston mayor Lee P. Brown to recruit wealthy Chinese investors for a proposed 1000-room East Downtown hotel project on the opposite side of the 59 freeway from the George R. Brown convention center appears to be picking up steam. Brown is listed as chairman of the managing general partner of the project, a company named Global Century Development. Brown and Global Century’s president, Dan Nip, hope to raise money for the $225 million project from investors who want to immigrate to the U.S. through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ EB-5 Visa program. That program, established as a result of the Immigration Act of 1990, allows foreign nationals to obtain a green card by investing a minimum of $500,000 — and thereby create 10 or more jobs — in qualified areas with high unemployment rates. An East Downtown investment zone identified by Global Century Development in the area bounded by Preston St., the 59 Freeway, I-45, and Dowling is the only area in Houston that qualifies as a “regional center” under the program.

A Powerpoint presentation prepared by Global Century Development that appears to date from last year sites the proposed hotel on three adjacent blocks near Saint Emanuel and Polk St. But a report in today’s Houston Business Journal by Jennifer Dawson indicates plans for the East Downtown hotel are focused on only 2 of those blocks, which Nip controls: They’re bounded by Polk, Saint Emanuel, Bell, and Chartres. Dawson reports that a pedestrian bridge connecting the hotel to the convention center across the freeway is being planned, but a schematic drawing of a bridge featured in the presentation appears to show it only crossing Chartres St., requiring pedestrians to cross under the freeway:


Mayor Parker sent Nip a letter last month that was “designed to show potential lenders and investors that Nip’s project is needed and would have the backing of the city,” Dawson writes. In the letter, Parker indicates that she will recommend to city council that the city rebate city occupancy, hard-liquor, and sales taxes collected at the hotel if it is built within 1000 ft. of the convention center, under a state program created for that purpose. And more:

Since this Hotel will be a needed facility which will permit the City’s convention center to be more effectively used and will result in economic benefits to the City, the City will also assist you in having the State of Texas recognize the hotel as a Qualified Hotel Project and permit the Hotel to receive a rebate of the State hotel occupancy taxes, mixed beverage taxes and sales taxes collected by the State at the Hotel.

Parker also states the city would allow Nip’s company to use tax increases generated by the hotel and collected by TIRZ No. 15 to help finance the construction of the “pedestrian bridge and/or connection” to the convention center. She indicates that any agreement with the developers would be similar to the rebate program set up for the Hilton Americas Hotel along Discovery Green. Neither the letter nor the HBJ‘s report makes any mention of the involvement of Parker’s predecessor, Mayor Brown. Nip also serves as chairman of the East Downtown Development Authority.

Images: Global Century Development

14 Comment

  • Dang, sold that property just blocks from there three years too early. aaarrrggghhh!!!

  • I think that is a fantastic idea. Could I request a casino be included in the hotel? :)

  • Mayor Lee Brown!!!

  • Wow. A hotel built by who-knows-what with $500,000 cash looking for a legal way to immigrate which is easily solved by just buying a green card. Are they sending invitations to the drug lords in Mexico and Colombia? Maybe they should pitch this to Hosni Mubarak. He could use a green card. And has about $50 billion in cash here and there.

    And the hotel of course will be built by people who don’t have green cards and staffed, with the exception of the front desk, with people who also don’t have green cards.

    Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for her. I did vote for Lee Brown. And now wish I hadn’t.

  • The convention center was built 20 years ago and it’s still not being effectively used because of lack of hotel space? And we need to give tax breaks to foreigners to build a hotel? Typical government. If something’s not working, keep throwing more and more money at it.

  • I didn’t vote for either one of them and I didn’t even think he was worth a shot of powder as police chief. Out of town Brown! Spent a lot of time and money visiting other countries to “study the economy”. Sure.

  • Geeze Louise – This program has SCAM written all over it. Ok – We need to raise $225MM to build a hotel. Lets get 450 Chinese to pitch in $500M each, they get free green cards. Give me a break. And to think that these folks are in charge. I think we need to take a lesson from Egypt and throw the bastards out.

  • That’s right folks, Annise Parker wrote our federal immigration laws and therefore is entirely to blame for this. The program to encourage immigration by entrepreneurs who are able to invest in the country and therefore create jobs has been in place for over twenty years and was put in place deliberately to encourage entrepreneurs to pick the US to live in. In case you hadn’t noticed, without influxes of trillions of dollars of foreign cash we would have run out of money decades ago.

  • I suspect there are a few more qualifying factors than just $500,000.

  • The govt. needs to adjust that $500,000 to at least $900,000 considering inflation in the last 20 years.

  • I’m ok with tax rebates and TIRZ money. But puh-leeze, NONE of my money. Every, and I repeat, EVERY city-funded project has failed. Not a one has survived.

  • Annise maybe another furlough day will help fund it!

  • You’d think he’d want to buy his own CC Hotel boondoggle from the city for the $325 million list price.

  • Bringing a major investment into the city with much needed jobs that this brings and adds value to Houston business conference center is not a good thing? WTF. The immigration law was originally enacted to attract foreign investment in this country to help create jobs. The main lure at that time was millionaires from Hong Kong who were afraid of the chinese takeover. State-run social capitalism model that China employs has produced many many millionaires these days who are looking to invest and diversify. Why not invest in America? Would you rather see this much money move to Australia, Canada, Europe or Japan, or Brazil instead?