The Brooklyn-based developer set to renovate Nassau Coliseum and its surrounding land this summer wants to fund the project with an additional $90 million from a Chinese investor through a federal program that provides visas in exchange for the financing of job-creating projects, officials said Saturday.
If approved, Forest City Ratner Cos. would increase its total investment in the Coliseum project by $31.5 million -- from $229 million to $260.5 million.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano filed a bill Friday night with the GOP-controlled county legislature to amend Forest City's lease agreement to allow for the foreign investment. The lease currently only allows for "traditional financing."
The amendment authorizes Nassau Events Center -- a Forest City affiliate created for the Coliseum project -- to seek financing from an overseas lender through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Immigrant Investor program, commonly known as EB-5.
"In order to fulfill our world-class vision for the Coliseum, we plan to utilize the EB-5 financing program just as we did to build out necessary infrastructure for our development in Brooklyn," said Forest City spokeswoman Ashley Cotton, referring to Barclays Center.
In a statement, Mangano said the amendment "provides taxpayers an additional $30 million investment in our Veterans Memorial Coliseum."
The EB-5 program, created by Congress in 1990, allows developers to seek cheap cash from foreign markets, most commonly in China, to help fund their domestic projects.
The investments must be at least $500,000 and for projects that create at least 10 jobs. In exchange, the federal government grants green cards to the investors and their families.
In 2014, 85 percent of the 10,692 visas issued through the program went to Chinese investors, according to a February report by the State Department.
The program has been used in recent years by New York commercial and residential real estate developers, including Silverstein Properties, the Durst Organization and Related Companies.
Ratner has twice used the program to raise nearly $500 million for construction projects at Barclays Center and its surrounding development, Cotton said. A third round of EB-5 funding for the project is pending, she said.
According to the proposed amendment, Ratner has been working with the U.S. Immigration Fund to structure an EB-5 investment centered on the Coliseum redevelopment.
Nassau Coliseum Funding 100 LLC would provide Nassau Events Center with a $90 million loan secured by a leasehold mortgage on NEC's interest under the lease.
NEC is obligated to use "commercially reasonable efforts" to obtain financing from traditional domestic lenders if they are unable to secure the EB-5 investment, the amendment states.
"This amendment does not alleviate any of NEC's existing rights, duties or obligations under the lease," the amendment states.
Forest City executive chairman Bruce Ratner's 2013 lease with the county calls for him to spend $229 million to renovate and downsize the Coliseum and build an adjacent sports and entertainment complex on the 77-acre Uniondale property.
The estimated cost for the Coliseum renovation itself was $98.5 million. The lease amendment increases Ratner's investment in the arena renovations to $130 million, with the $31.5 million going toward additional building enhancements, Cotton said.
Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he hopes to meet with Mangano and Forest City officials in the coming days to discuss the proposal. Cristina Brennan, spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), said she would review the proposal.