Things are busy at Seattle-based American Life Incorporated.
With three EB-5 visa projects in progress -- two of which feature national hotel chains -- the real estate company is finding continued support from immigrant investors.
"Our Riverside County project is probably the closest to completion," said American Life President Henry Liebman, referring to a warehouse conversion the company is handling in Southern California. "But that's a small deal," he said. "We're also building a combined Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn in Los Angeles."
In addition to its California projects, American Life is securing funds for a Hilton-Homewood Suites hotel near the Atlanta airport. With that project underway, the Washington-based regional center's reach has extended not just to other states, but also to other regions.
A history with the EB-5 program
Lots of ventures have jumped on board the EB-5 bandwagon as of late. According to USCIS, roughly 100 applicants submitted the paperwork required for regional center approval prior to the implementation of Form I-924 last fall.
American Life, however, has been a fixture of the EB-5 regional center landscape for years. Its first regional center, located in Seattle, was approved in 1996.
"The Marriott Courtyard in Downtown Seattle has probably been our most significant project," said Liebman. "The hotel has been open for about a year."
Reconstructed from a bank built in the early 20th century, the Marriott Courtyard is a 14-story hotel with 262 guest rooms and 9 large meeting rooms. A quick look at American Life's online portfolio shows still more properties in Seattle, including retail, industrial, and office properties.
A take on recent EB-5 events
Much has been made of the recent Chinese court decision that limits EB-5 marketing activity. Many experts say regional centers will have to alter how they pitch projects to foreign investors -- possibly focusing on the green card side and keeping mum about the investments themselves.
As far as Liebman is concerned, American Life is willing to follow any laws China wants to pass. But with regard to this particular decision, it is "hard to understand the context," he said.
Indeed, many EB-5 regional center principals and marketers are struggling to grasp just how the decision will affect the way they approach Chinese investors. And the quality of EB-5 investments has been the subject of several recent stories in major media publications.
Liebman, in fact, was one of the few regional center operators interviewed by Reuters for its lengthy, mostly critical, December story on the EB-5 visa program.
"He was factual. He didn't say anything unusual," said Liebman, pointing out how the author of the Reuters story offered boilerplate EB-5 criticisms -- namely that the quality of many investments is low.
Whether press is generally positive or negative, Liebman seems focused on what American Life currently has to offer investors.
"The general proposition is that we'll be offering multiple projects in multiple locations. Investors can choose large or small projects. They can choose debt or equity. We offer all these projects in different spots, and that's the platform we're getting to this year," he said.