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How China could save Detroit

Incumbent Mike Bell may have lost the Toledo, Ohio, mayoral election in November, but he departs this month with a kind of celebrity in urban development circles. His success in luring Chinese investment to Toledo, 50 miles south of Detroit on Lake Erie and with a population of 280,000, remains the envy of larger American cities. A Chinese university will soon set up a branch downtown; rare Chinese antiques will be shown at the Toledo museum this year. A waterfront redevelopment project is underway, courtesy of Chinese capital.

It’s a sign of things to come. The American real estate industry has finally tapped the faucets of global finance, and projects are swimming in Chinese capital. According to data from Real Capital Analytics, the Chinese spent $4.3 billion on commercial property in the United States in 2013, more than in the previous five years combined. The country is easily the fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the U.S., and Boston Consulting Group has predicted that Chinese offshore assets will double over the next three years.

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