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Search for foreign investors could delay convention center hotel even longer

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Another delay seems likely for Wilmington's Convention Center hotel. At a briefing with city leaders this morning, the developer said it needs another extension.

Hotel developer Harmony Hospitality said today it may need another three months to get the financing straight to move forward with plans to build an Embassy Suites.

"We're coming out of an economic situation where everybody wants something right now, so the delay is frustrating," Wilmington Downtown Inc. Executive Director John Hinnant said.

Harmony Hospitality is expected to ask City Council Tuesday night for another extension on moving forward with plans to build the hotel. The biggest hold-up Harmony faces is financing. A majority of the money is supposed to come from foreign investors through a federal program called EB5.

"Money from other countries being invested in projects in the United States, in return for which they get a visa or two," City Council member Laura Padgett explained.

EB5 is the same program that helped provide financing for the downtown marina project.

Hinnant says although it can be a lengthy process, it has a track record of success.

"I know that the EB5 program has been successful," Hinnant said. "We see projects happening now in Wilmington with EB5 investments. It just means more patience."

Padgett says although the waiting can be frustrating, the city's patience will be rewarded.

"In the end, I think that's going to be the best choice we could have, and that will be an enhancement to the success of the Convention Center," she said.

Harmony Hospitality is also still waiting on a secured commitment from Hilton, which owns Embassy Suites.

A Harmony representative would not talk on camera.

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