Housing Complex

D.C.’s Building Boom, Financed in Exchange for Green Cards

The Marriott Marquis was financed partly by foreigners in exchange for permanent U.S. residency.

The Marriott Marquis was financed partly by foreigners in exchange for permanent U.S. residency.

May 1 was a big day for D.C.'s hotel industry. The city's largest hotel, the 1,175-room Marriott Marquis next to the convention center, opened its doors to the public. So did the 187-room Cambria Suites just four blocks to the north, at the CityMarket at O development in Shaw, which also includes a Giant supermarket and residences.

What do these two projects have in common? First, they gave a major boost to D.C.'s hospitality offerings. In a single day, they increased the number of the hotel rooms in the District by 5 percent.

And second, both the Marriott Marquis and CityMarket at O earned dozens of foreigners their green cards.

My cover story in today's paper explores the EB-5 program, a federal initiative that makes foreign investors eligible for permanent U.S. residency if they put $500,000 into an American project and create 10 jobs. The program, created by an act of Congress in 1990, started off slowly but became hugely popular during the recession, when bank loans were hard to come by. These days, it's responsible for a substantial chunk of the investment in major D.C. real estate projects.

But it's not without its controversy, or questions about its future. Here's the full story.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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