That $100 million Chinese investment in Myrtle Beach? ‘We’re working on it’

One year after local officials announced a $100 million investment in the Myrtle Beach area, there’s been no movement by Chinese investors.

The investment would have brought a Chinese cultural village — an amusement park including attractions like a building built in the image of a giant silk lantern — to an area west of the Intracoastal Waterway, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and Horry County Council Chair Mark Lazarus told The Sun News last March.

Lazarus could not be reached by phone Monday. Rhodes said he had not heard anything from the group of investors that he said last year pledged millions to the project.

“I would love to hear from them very soon, but as of right now, I have not,” Rhodes said. “I think they were talking about coming back around the first of — well, hell, it is March.”

Ming Wu, a representative of Hongyang Lantern Inc., the group that was slated to invest, said that an investor named “Mr. Chang” was planning on coming to the U.S. this month. But The Sun News reported last year that the investors had been planning on coming in April 2016 to make a decision about how to spend their money.

“So far, we have nothing to announce right this moment, because we’re still working on it,” Wu said. “We’re still waiting (on the) Chinese side, the investors to make the final decision.”

Last year, documents received after a Freedom of Information request suggested that the group had expressed interest in the former Hard Rock amusement park property, which opened for a few months in 2008. The park changed hands and then opened as the Freestyle Music Park in 2009 closing shortly after. It now sits unused.

Wu said that his group has not begun purchasing land for the deal and declined to identify an area where they might.

Chinese developers and investors have turned their eye on the Myrtle Beach area over the past few years, with many investing in golf courses.

Rhodes also has traveled to China several times on economic development and tourism trips. The announcement of the $100 million investment came after a February 2016 trip. He most recently traveled there in September to a tourism summit, in a trip funded by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber President Brad Dean said in an email Monday that his organization’s international strategy is focused on recruiting more air travel to the region, so that Myrtle Beach becomes a part of foreign traveler’s trips around the southeast.

“On a few occasions, we have met with foreign investors interested in our community, but I am not aware of any recent activity related to the cultural village concept,” Dean wrote in the email.

And Rhodes said he may not travel to China again in the near future.

“I’m sorry, I am not taking time out to go over there any more until y’all have decided to put money in the project and get it going,” he said.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ