Texas

Proposed Austin hotel ties Trump to immigrant investor program

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Oct. 4 in Prescott Valley, Ariz.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Oct. 4 in Prescott Valley, Ariz. The Associated Press

A proposed hotel project in Austin has managed to touch both the rough-and-tumble White House race and a contentious visa program that provides a pathway to citizenship for foreign investors.

Recent reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times focus on what’s being touted as the 33-story Austin Mirabeau Trump Hotel. The $130 million project would feature the Trump Hotels name, but it would also seek to entice Chinese investors looking to acquire a green card.

The pairing would be odd for a few reasons.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, outspoken about his desire to build a giant border wall, has taken a hard line on immigration. The visa program, involving what are called EB-5 visas, is already under fire over fraud allegations and some concerns that it under-delivers on its economic development promises.

And The Times says the Austin hotel proposal further underscores those complications.

The Times reports that the project doesn’t have an official green light and that it’s unclear if Trump or his organization is deeply involved. It also says property records show a project called Waterloo Park Tower is in the works for the same site, which is occupied by a brick-oven pizzeria.

The EB-5 program, created in 1990, gives up to 10,000 green cards a year to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. businesses that create at least 10 American jobs per investor. At least $8.7 billion has been invested in the U.S. through the program, The Journal reported.

Much attention to the program has been paid to developments in Manhattan, where Chinese investors have made particular use of the initiative. But the program has also been key in Texas, where EB-5 investors have participated in several high-profile Dallas developments.

Among them: the Dallas Farmers Market redevelopment, the West Dallas Skilled Nursing Facility, the NYLO Hotel in the Cedars, the Element/Aloft Hotel near Dallas Love Field, the Hall Arts/KPMG Plaza and the Marriott Residence Inn near the Canyon.

Still, some key lawmakers are pushing to overhaul the program.

“U.S. investors and foreign nationals are being duped and left high and dry,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said this year, according to The Times.

Trump’s involvement is likely to stir additional attention to how it all works. And the proposed Austin hotel isn’t even the first with Trump ties, as Bloomberg News this year highlighted such an apartment tower in Jersey City, N.J.

As for the Austin project, the future remains unclear. Trump Hotels spokeswoman Jennifer Rodstrom told The Times that “our growth strategy is to expand the Trump Hotels portfolio by strategically developing and opening properties in both key U.S. and international locations.”

“While we do not have a definite project in Austin at this time,” she said, “we remain interested in key U.S. cities and will continue to explore such opportunities accordingly.”

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