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.
- Houston backs downtown convention hotel [Houston Business Journal]
- Letter from Mayor Parker to Dan Nip (PDF) [Houston Business Journal]
- EB-5 Regional Center – The Investment Green Card [Global Century Development]
Images: Global Century Development