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Clinton kin promoting Chinatown tower plan

Developers of a long-planned $75 million residential and office tower in Chinatown are using Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham, to help market the project to foreign investors.

Developers of a long-planned $75 million residential and office tower in Chinatown are using Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham, to help market the project to foreign investors.

The proposed 23-story Eastern Tower Community Center, planned for 10th and Vine Streets, is to have 143 residential units, as well as ground-floor retail shops, a second-floor community center, and three floors of office space, developers say.

A firm created in 2013 to find wealthy Chinese investors for the project, Global City Regional Center, says Rodham is responsible for international marketing and promotion, and "all governmental relations matters" for the firm.

The firm's website promotes Rodham's family connections, noting that he "has worked with former President Bill Clinton on all his campaigns, from the House of Representatives to the presidential campaigns. Subsequently, Mr. Rodham worked for the Democratic National Committee coordinating constituency outreach. Mr. Rodham also worked for his sister, Hillary Rodham Clinton, during her Senate and presidential campaigns."

Rodham, who has been associated with the firm for at least a year, brings added political heft to a project that also has two prominent local Democrats as advisers.

Marjorie Margolis, a former congresswoman from Montgomery County and Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, and Joseph M. Hoeffel 3d, a former congressman and Montgomery County commissioner, are on the three-member board of advisers to Global City.

Rodham's role was first reported by Politico.

Hoeffel said Rodham is a "knowledgeable and active" consultant to the firm, with extensive experience in so-called EB-5 projects, which use funding from foreign investors.

Such projects allow the investors to get U.S. residency for themselves and their families by contributing $500,000 to a job-creating project in the United States, under the federal Immigrant Investor Program, created in 1990. Successful investors are eligible for EB-5 immigration visas and a path to eventual U.S. citizenship.

EB-5 projects have grown in popularity around the country as a source of cheap money for both private real estate developments and public-works projects.

Among local projects and companies that have used EB-5 financing are the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike's connection to I-95, SEPTA's new smart-card fare-payment system, the Convention Center, Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, Comcast Corp., the Butcher & Singer steak house, and Temple University Health System.

Despite such successes, the EB-5 program has been controversial for its role in providing green cards for cash, and has drawn criticism for lax oversight and some fraudulent projects that produce neither American jobs nor permanent green cards for foreign investors.

Hoeffel said Rodham's experience with EB-5 projects make him an asset for Global City and its effort to develop the Chinatown project. "Tony is not there for show," Hoeffel said Friday. "He is very knowledgeable and active."

Rodham was involved in an EB-5 project in Mississippi that was investigated for claims that it used political connections to get approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Chinatown project, on what is now a parking lot, is being developed by Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. and local developer Ahsan M. Nasratullah.

Nasratullah, who created Global City Regional Center in 2013, is the founder of JNA Capital Inc. and the chief executive of an affiliated real estate development firm, Teres Holdings, which built, among others, Distrito Restaurant by the University of Pennsylvania campus and the Shops on Liacouras Walk, a mixed-use development by Temple University.

Neither Nasratullah nor Rodham could be reached for comment Friday.

Hoeffel said developers are hopeful that the Chinatown project, which has been on the drawing board for a decade, will begin construction this year.