Saint Petersburg will soon become the home of a new and innovative type of housing project.
Skytian Capital, an investment firm with operations in Tampa, Toronto and New York, bought two apartment complexes in Saint Pete for more than $5 million on March 31, according to Skytian Capital founder St. Nge. The buildings located at 425 2nd St. will be redeveloped. The project is named after Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous innovator of blockchain and bitcoin.
Eng said in an interview with The Tampa Bay Times. He saw the need to fill the growing void in Tampa Bay.
“It feels very raucous, like Austin or Shanghai coming back in the day,” Eng said of the growth happening across the region.
In this conversation, Eng explained why he did not focus on high-end apartments and why he wanted to honor the creator of Bitcoin. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you want to build this project in St. Petersburg?
After many years of research in North America and abroad as to where we want to invest again, we fell in love with Florida and specifically Tampa and St Pete. In previous projects, we were looking more for opportunities for housing for the workforce and opportunities to improve communities. So we usually acquire them and then try to make them a better place to live. This project is a little different in the sense that it is downtown. And we found that these are small units in a crowded area of Tampa Bay. It feels very boisterous, like Austin or Shanghai coming back in the day. He is creative and technical, he has a great energy with young people and we felt there was a lack of cheap but cool and comfortable accommodation. So we felt this product was an ideal location that caters to a strong demand: ultra-small units, ultra-high tech, strong personality, brand, flexible, furnished – but not necessarily five-star costs.
Is it a hotel, an apartment, or is it very similar to Airbnb?
There is a term called medium term housing, and it is definitely not a hotel with a large staff. It does not have to be a bed and breakfast. It’s kind of middle. We will use technologies that will help automate a lot of things like automated check-ins, and all payments will be automated. It will be furnished like a hotel but the majority of rooms will have a full kitchen and bathrooms. This can be very attractive for a nurse on a three month contract or just imagine a team of founders starting a company here in Tampa and they might stay here two or three months but don’t want to stay in a hotel and want to be close to downtown.
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It’s an interesting emerging mix because even on Airbnb, more bookings are now for the long haul rather than just two or three days for tourism. And that’s obviously driven by working from home, (and) accelerating because of COVID, but it’s a trend that was emerging before COVID.
The Tampa housing market is imploding, but some fear there is an increased risk of a lull or correction. How do you navigate it?
That’s the billion dollar question, isn’t it? We are very conservative. We don’t really acquire assets that don’t have cash flow, so we have stable holdings. It is usually 90-95 percent occupied and often neglected by the owners and there are opportunities to really improve, but not necessarily 100 percent. As leases expire, we may change the kitchen, upgrade with washer and dryers, or add amenities such as dog parks or a change of yard. So we are working on improving it but not doing development work. We might make less money than we would in the real world, but we’re OK with that.
What will happen to the people who live in apartments now?
Some of their leases expire. Many from month to month. So when they leave, we’ll upgrade. It is clear that we will accommodate those who want to stay. It’s a very high turnover market, but it’s like any city.
What is the price of the apartments now?
We’re not done with the price points yet and we’re still done with the design. But I can tell you that if you’re walking around downtown St. Pete, there’s a great supply and new supply of luxury apartments. There are a lot of expensive hotels. I can tell you we’re not at that price point. So we will be more affordable just because the assets are a little older. We don’t want to be another fancy builder.
We’re not going to be a one-star hotel, but what we’re seeing is a niche where there’s a lot of creative here or environmentally conscious healthcare workers, tech-savvy travelers who just want something different. So this is a very nice niche. We are proud to be in Tampa first with this concept. It’s the perfect place to try something like this.
Why did you decide to call it Satoshi Hideout?
Bitcoin was created in the aftermath of the Lehman financial crisis as a kind of anti-Wall Street, anti-establishment because the common belief was that the central authorities were deceiving the young. So the whole idea of decentralization and the use of technology is really to democratize money, as well as society. So this whole spirit, whether you believe it or not, is what hosts a very tight-knit and emotional community. This spirit tries to capture that spirit of democracy, share that for everyone and innovate.
Blockchain is huge and getting bigger, so we wanted to honor the creator of the blockchain because he or she, we don’t know if Satoshi is a person or group of people or if they are a man, woman, black, white or Asian. Don’t know right? Because no one does. But we know that they created this thing, worth billions in Bitcoin and they are hiding somewhere.