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Murrieta shopping center gets boost from foreign investors

Work started this week on a project that will inject $12 million into Murrieta's economy and give 24 foreign investors a shot at permanent U.S. residency.

The Olivewood Plaza shopping center will feature an organic market, two restaurants, retail and office space. It will transform a weed-strewn field at one of the city's most visible and important intersections, on Jefferson Avenue across from City Hall and Town Square Park.

And it might not have gotten off the ground without a group of Asian investors and an obscure Citizenship and Immigration Services program called EB-5.

The 20-year-old federal program that encourages foreign investment in the U.S. by offering green cards to anyone who puts $1 million -- or $500,000 in high unemployment areas -- into a project that will create jobs.

Each investment must create at least 10 jobs.

Eighteen are from China, four from South Korea, one from Japan and one is from Peru, developer Rick Neugebauer said.

None of the investors was immediately available for an interview.

In exchange for their $500,000 investments, they will, if approved by the government and after a two-year conditional green card, jump to the head of the line and get permanent residency for themselves and their immediate family.

Every year, the government makes 10,000 green cards available through the program, according to Citizen and Immigration Services.

Neugebauer, of Oak Grove Equities, said the program came along at a time when normal financing was hard to come by.

The project, which has been in the works for five years, was scaled back and then stalled when the recession dried up a lot of commercial investment, he said.

Bruce Coleman, Murrieta's Economic Development Director, said the city suggested the plan after learning about it from an Orange County company, American Redevelopment Solutions.

"I've not seen a financing market as difficult as this one, so we try to think creatively to encourage businesses to grow here," Coleman said.

Coleman said the project is believed to be the first in the "greater San Diego area" to make use of the program. While Congress created it in 1990, the government didn't heavily promote EB-5 until the George W. Bush administration.

There is a screening process to try to ensure that the money isn't from illicit businesses.

Coleman said each business in the shopping center, like every company in Murrieta, must screen potential employees using the federal E-Verify system to ensure they are eligible to work in the United States.

Murrieta also is working with a medical device company in the city to expand its operations using the same program, Coleman said.

Reach John F. Hill at 951-375-3738 or


Posted on May 17 2012 by arsnews
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