With the news that a private high speed rail project may gain traction with the potential pausing of environmental review for the publicly-founded ZipRail project, Bluestem thinks it might be worth revisiting the status of Liberty Minnesota Regional Center's only "current project," the EdCampus in Chaska.
According to City of Chaska planning staff and the city's website, the city approved a different concept for the property in 2013.
Bluestem Prairie looked at the EdCampus project earlier in two mid-August posts: Roch high speed rail line: Chaska ghost campus already in pipeline for EB-5 vi sa center financing and Roch high speed rail line: Ghost campus building site on market as Chaska Creek Business Park.
Private HSR leaders' EB-5 center current project is moribund EdCampus
As the Rochester Post Bulletin reported in this summer in High-speed rail company turns to wealthy foreign investors:
It turns out key leaders in the North American High Speed Rail Group are also behind a new EB-5 regional center. Rail group CEO Joe Sperber and Chairman Joseph Wang are co-owners of Liberty Minnesota Regional Center, which won approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in April. These centers sponsor economic development projects people can invest in via the EB-5 program.
On the Liberty Minnesota Regional Center's "Current Projects" page, the group's only current project is the EdCampus in Chaska:
EdCampus – Chaska, MN
State-of-the-art and revolutionary higher-educational institution
Located in Chaska, Minnesota
296 investor slots total
Here's a screenshot from Wednesday, October 7:
According to Chaska City planner Elizabeth Hanson, with whom Bluestem spoke in a phone interview, while the concept of the EdCampus was approved many years ago, the project's developers never completed the next steps in the process.
That being the case, the City of Chaska approved a different concept for the location. According to a page about the Chaska Creek Business Park:
On October 21, 2013, the Chaska City Council unanimously approved the concept plan for the Chaska Creek Business Park. The Chaska Creek Business Park is an 83-acre site that is located at the southwest corner of Trunk Highway 212 and Engler Boulevard (County Road 10). The project will be jointly developed by Opus Group and HJ Development.
For some time, this property has been discussed and planned. The mixed-use corporate industrial park takes advantage of its strategic location and provides the community with a significant head of household job base.
The Post Bulletin isn't the only coverage of the involvement Liberty Minnesota Regional Center in the financing of the project. Watchdog.org MN reported in New EB-5 visa center to help finance proposed high-speed rail line:
A developer seeking billions for a proposed high-speed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities has federal approval to launch Liberty Minnesota Regional Center, an EB-5 immigrant investment center.
North American High Speed Rail group has been quietly negotiating with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study and for exclusive rights to build an elevated line along the 84 mile Highway 52 corridor.
The Minnesota-based group plans to raise much of the estimated $4.2 billion — in private capital from foreign individuals and governments, including China — to finance the rail project. The EB-5 program provides permanent green cards to foreign investors who invest $500,000 to $1 million in businesses or economic development projects that create or preserve at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers.
The group has yet to include the private High speed rail project online. Instead, the moribund EdCampus is the only project for which investors can register.
Perhaps there's some other EdCampus project in Chaska than this one. If so, Bluestem hopes that they'll tell the City of Chaska about their plans.
Will pausing ZipRail greenlight the private alternative?
Today's Rochester Post Bulletin reports in MnDOT considers hitting 'pause button' on Zip Rail:
He [ MnDOT Chief of Staff Eric Davis]added it would also be a logical place to stop work on the project in case the state decides to allow the North American High Speed Rail Group to move ahead with plans for a privately funded high-speed rail line from Rochester to the Med City. . . .
The commissioner [Olmsted County Commissioner Ken Brown] also voiced frustration that the state has yet to reach a deal with the North American High Speed Rail Group. The company is seeking to build an 84-mile, elevated high-speed rail line from Rochester to the Twin Cities. The $4.2 billion project would be funded through a combination of Chinese and U.S. investors. As part of the project, the rail group would also develop real estate that ties into the rail line.
State representative Steve Drazkowski and other opponents of the project have raised concerns about Chinese investors in the project. Our questions focus more on a business currently soliciting interest in another project that seems to have withered on the vine in Carver County--while hyping a far more ambitious proposal between the Twin Cities and Rochester.
One might even think the Chinese investors seeking to live in the United States and those scrutinizing the private rail project have more common interest than mere xenophobia might allow.
We've contacted the Minnesota USCIS media spokester to learn more about the EB-5 program.
Los Angeles to Vegas rail: is this a pattern for this bunch?
The conflicting plans for a piece of real estate posed by the "EdCampus"/Chaska Creek Business Park echoes in another news story about the high speed rail promoters.
Not long ago, Carlson reported in the Post Bulletin story, Private rail company seeks to build high-speed rail across U.S.:
The private company seeking to build a high-speed rail line from Rochester to the Twin Cities is also vying for the right to build four other corridors, including a proposed line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
North American High Speed Rail Group spokeswoman Wendy Meadley said the company is competing for the chance to build the L.A. to Vegas rail line. Last week, the L.A. Timesreported that officials from XpressWest announced they had partnered with China Railway International USA to finance part of the L.A. to Vegas project. That group is a consortium led by China Railway, which is the People's Republic of China's national railroad. The Chinese group pledged it would provide $100 million in initial capital for the project.
Meadley said despite the announcement, no deal has been finalized. The Minnesota-based rail group is still in the running to build the train. She noted that the cost of the entire project is likely $4 billion to $12 billion. . . .
The Los Angeles Times reported in A high-speed rail from L.A. to Las Vegas? China says it's partnering with U.S. to build:
For decades private developers and entrepreneurs have periodically announced bold plans to run high-speed trains between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
None have gotten anywhere because they lacked money or suffered other setbacks.
On Thursday, however, one long-discussed proposal appeared to gain some intriguing support.
Officials for XpressWest, which has been unable to secure adequate private investors in the United States or a $5.5-billion federal loan, announced that it had formed a partnership with China Railway International USA, a consortium led by China Railway, the national railroad of the People’s Republic of China.
Details about the joint venture, the proposed project and its financing were unavailable Thursday, except China Railway International stated that it would provide initial capital of $100 million. Project officials say they are confident construction could begin as early as September 2016. . . .
On Monday, the Las Vegas Sun reported in China could fast-track high-speed rail from Las Vegas to California:
XpressWest, a 230-mile high-speed rail project slated to stretch along the Interstate 15 corridor, could be just what Las Vegas needs to bring more weekend tourists from Los Angeles, but more importantly, it could mark a big moment in the growing relationship between Las Vegas and China.
The rail line, to be funded by a Chinese government-backed consortium, is just one of several high-profile projects in the valley that show the domestic benefits of a growing Chinese economy — and its perils.
“The project will be a landmark in overseas investment for the Chinese railway sector and serve as a model of international cooperation,” Yang Zhongmin, chairman of China Railway International, a newly formed Nevada firm owned by Chinese project backers, told Xinhua, a Chinese newspaper.
The state-owned project, which could break ground as soon as September 2016, is expected to cost at least $100 million.
It also is a chess move by China, which is looking to beat Japan in a race to export high-speed rail technology.
For China, the deal marks an opportunity to establish a foothold in the U.S. rail market. The largest bullet-train company in Japan had expressed interest in XpressWest several years ago but lost out. Just weeks after China won the Los Angeles-Las Vegas route, it also beat Japan in a months-long battle for an Indonesian contract to build a railway from Jakarta to Bandung. . . .
Contacted by phone in Las Vegas, a spokesman for XpressWest directed us to their initial news release.
Photo: From the NAHSR website.
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