The Amirian Group is seeking investors for its boutique luxury condominium project in the East Village, but this is no traditional equity play. The developer and its partners hope the investors will buy into the project using cryptocurrency, with each transaction recorded on blockchain.
Those involved in the deal say this is the first time investors have been able to use crypto and blockchain technology to invest in Manhattan real estate, and that it portends a more democratic and decentralized world in which accredited small investors will be able to take advantage of real estate’s profit potential, generally only available to the rich and connected.
In this case, investors would buy membership interests in a limited liability company that will hold the project’s debt, with the LLC slated to buy out Amirian’s existing construction loan and preferred equity at Thirteen East + West, a 12-unit luxury condo spanning two buildings at 436 and 442 East 13th Street. New York City Department of Finance records show the developers received a total of $16.95 million in construction financing.
The entrepreneurs behind the project are from Fluidity, a Williamsburg-based crypto technology company that created AirSwap, a decentralized token trading platform.
Michael Oved, Fluidity’s co-founder, said that investors in the LLC investors will be entitled to a preferred return and a profit participation. Fluidity is working with Propellr Securities LLC, a New York-based company that will act as the broker-dealer of the LLC.
Investors will be able to buy into the asset the traditional way, using old-fashioned dollars. But were they to go the crypto route, the transaction would be recorded on a blockchain, which is an online ledger for keeping track of who owns what.
“Propellr’s job is to find the buyers of the security through their tech platform,’’ said Oved. “Our job is to take those interests and turn them into tokens.’’
The group putting together this structure — Fluidity, AirSwap, Propellr, Amirian, — is taking pains to make sure the investment complies with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, which for the most part treat cryptocurrencies as a security – an investment vehicle — rather than a currency. Propellr will offer and sell traditional and tokenized securities under what is known as Reg D rule 506 (c).
Fluidity’s co-founder Sam Tabar said the minimum investment is $25,000 but declined to provide specifics on how much an investor could buy or the pricing of the shares, citing requirements by the SEC.
Amirian and former partner Bridgeton Holdings spent $9.5 million to acquire the properties in 2015. Nest Seekers International’s Ryan Serhant was tapped to market the full-floor units, which start at $2.35 million and go up to $3.6 million. The total projected sellout for both buildings was pegged at $36 million.
Though it may end up being the first equity investment in a condo project, it won’t be the first deal in the city to transact through crypto.
In March, buyers of two sponsor units at Ben Shaoul’s condo conversion at 389 East 89th Street closed deals with Bitcoin. Shaoul had also planned to accept cryptocurrency at his Liberty Toye conversion in the East Village, but instead decided to sell the unfinished project in May.
In June, The Real Deal examined cryptocurrency’s impact on the real estate industry and the volatility of digital currencies like Bitcoin.
Correction: A prior version of this story incorrectly stated the project’s sellout figure. It is $36 million between both buildings.