Chinese Infrastructure Project to Transform Chicago Skyline

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by Xinxin Zhang
(Beginning center and moving right) Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vista’s designer Jeanne Gang, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and Consul General Hong Lei break ground on Vista Tower. [Image: Studio Gang]

Vista Tower, located near Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline, will be the Windy City’s third tallest building upon completion in 2020. The developers of Vista Tower, China’s Wanda Group and Chicago-based Magellan Development Group, have borrowed $700 million from China’s Ping An Bank to finance the project, making it the largest construction loan ever issued in Chicago. The developers are also applying for EB-5 visas to raise funds from potential Chinese investors.

Vista Tower project will be the largest Chinese real estate investment in Chicago. It will bring more than 2,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs to the area. Global investors and local residents have regarded Vista Tower as an endorsement of the real estate market in Chicago, as the construction loan will last for years and spur the market. The developers have successfully pre-sold 35% of the residential units — 80% of them being bought by locals. One Chicagoan paid more than $8.6 million for a one-floor penthouse with 360 degree views of the city in Vista Tower. Chinese investors are transforming Chicago’s skyline and real estate market. The city’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced several times that he will continue working to attract Chinese investments to the city, believing that these investments can bring jobs and economic progress.

Illinois has deep economic ties with China. Chinese HNA Group paid $360 million to acquire an office tower in downtown Chicago, and Illinois is home to Wanxiang America Corporation, the US office of China’s Wanxiang Group. Wanxiang has acquired several distressed companies, saving and creating jobs in Illinois. Illinois, primarily the greater Chicago area has received a total of $9.8 billion in Chinese investment since 2000, which includes $6.3 billion in real estate and hospitality, making Illinois the third largest recipient of Chinese investment in the US.  

Xinxin Zhang is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a graduate student in public policy at the University of Chicago.