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December 10, 2016
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China City plans for Thompson

This is an artist’s rendering of the China City of America project proposed for the Town of Thompson
Contributed graphic

TOWN OF THOMPSON, NY — A project that was first proposed as a Chinese Disneyland has now been transformed into an educational project that is planned for about 570 acres in the Town of Thompson off Wild Turnpike. According to the environmental impact statement that was presented to the town planning board on December 3 by developer Sherry Li, the China City of America Project (CCAP) will include four college classroom buildings, four student activity centers, and related facilities such as 2,056 dormitory units.

The plans also call for a 100-unit inn, and 35 single-family houses that will be 10,000 square feet each and serve as “college benefactor housing.” The document also says, “All such housing will be subject to deed restrictions requiring approval of purchasers and tenants by the college to ensure occupancy only by such benefactors. Similar provisions will apply to faculty and student housing.”

One aspect of the project that has garnered a lot of attention is that the funding will be generated by Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5 visa” which grants green cards to foreign nationals who invest a certain amount of money in new commercial ventures.

According to information outlined on the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service website, the minimum investment amount in most of the country is $1 million, but in high unemployment or rural area such as Sullivan County, the minimum is $500,000, and the venture must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. residents. The application for that part of the project is under review.

The project is in the initial stages of development, and no permits have yet been granted.

If it is successful, this would not be the first education project started in Sullivan County that involves Chinese citizens. In November, the board of the Sullivan West Central School District finalized the sale of the mothballed Delaware Valley campus to Emily Wu, who runs The Windsor School in Queens that caters to middle and high school Chinese students as well as students from Korea, Vietnam and Japan. The school in the Town of Fremont is expected to also attract international students.

If the CCAP project is approved, it will not be the first project in the United States with that name. According to a 2012 story in the Dayton Daily News, a group of Chinese investors called Sino-Michigan Properties LLC bought about 200 acres of farmland for $1.9 million in a rural spot between Toledo, OH and Detroit, MI to be called China City. The paper said the land would be used for houses that would be marketed to Chinese residents who wish to start businesses in the United Stated.

Articles about that China City project have been reposted on local blogs, but there is apparently no connection between the two projects. Tom Shepstone, the project manager of CCAP, said he would be “very surprised” if there is any connection between the two.

The explanation for the coincidence is more likely that there is currently a great deal of interest in real estate investments in the United States among the rapidly-growing wealthy class in China.

Writing about Chinese investment in Detroit in an opinion piece on the Forbes website, ( author Gordon Chang wrote, “The bigger story is that the parking of wealth offshore indicates capital flight. The Chinese have only 13% of their wealth outside China, according to Oliver Williams of WealthInsight, while the global average is 20% to 30%, so some transfers of wealth abroad are normal for a developing society.

“But it’s not just money that is fleeing. A study conducted by Bank of China and Hurun found that more than half of China’s millionaires have taken steps to emigrate or are considering doing so.”

So investment in Detroit by wealthy Chinese residents is likely to continue, and also perhaps in Sullivan County.