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Why an investor will renovate a St. Petersburg complex to honor bitcoin’s creator

Satoshi Hideout will be a tech-focused housing option for creatives, nurses and entrepreneurs looking for a flexible place to live in Tampa Bay.
An early concept design for Satoshi Hideout. Official designs have not been finalized yet, Skytian Capital's San Eng said.
An early concept design for Satoshi Hideout. Official designs have not been finalized yet, Skytian Capital's San Eng said. [ Courtesy of Skytian Capital ]
Published Apr. 26|Updated Apr. 29

St. Petersburg will soon be home to a new and innovative type of housing project.

Skytian Capital, an investing firm that operates out of Tampa, Toronto and New York, bought two St. Pete apartment complexes for more than $5 million on March 31, according to Skytian Capital’s founder San Eng. The buildings on 425 2nd St. N. and 424 2nd St. N. will be redeveloped into Satoshi Hideout, a housing community with 41 units designed to have flexible leasing options. The project is named after Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of the blockchain and bitcoin.

There’s a growing need for flexible and affordable housing that caters to people with unconventional working hours, like artists, medical professionals and tech entrepreneurs, Eng said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. He saw a need to fill a growing void in Tampa Bay.

“It just feels very buzzy, like an upcoming Austin or Shanghai back in the day,” Eng said about the growth happening across the region.

In this conversation, Eng explained why he isn’t focused on high-end apartments and why he wanted to honor bitcoin’s creator. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A concept mockup for Satoshi Hangout, a flexible housing complex for tech professionals, nurses or creatives staying Tampa Bay for several months.
A concept mockup for Satoshi Hangout, a flexible housing complex for tech professionals, nurses or creatives staying Tampa Bay for several months. [ Courtesy of Skytian Capital ]

Why did you want to build this project in St. Petersburg?

After many years of research in North America and overseas in terms of where we want to invest in again, we fell in love with Florida and specifically Tampa and St. Pete. In earlier projects, we were more looking for opportunities to acquire workforce housing and opportunities to improve the communities. So we typically would acquire and then try to make them a better place to live. This project is a little different in the sense that it’s downtown. And we found that these are micro units in a bustling area of Tampa Bay. It just feels very buzzy, like an upcoming Austin or Shanghai back in the day. It’s creative and techie, it just has fantastic energy with young people and we felt that there’s a lack of inexpensive but cool, comfortable housing. So we felt this product is a perfect location that would meet a strong demand: so small units, very high-tech, strong personality, branded, flexible, furnished — but not necessarily five-star costs.

So is it a hotel, apartment or more like an Airbnb?

There’s a term called midterm housing, it’s definitely not a hotel, which tend to have high staffing. And it’s not necessarily a bed and breakfast. It’s sort of in the middle. We will employ technologies that would help automate a lot of things for like automated check-ins, all payments will be automated. It will be furnished like a hotel but the majority of rooms will have full kitchen and baths. It can be very attractive for a nurse that’s on a three-month contract or just imagine a team of founders that are starting a company here in Tampa, and 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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A portrait of San Eng, the founder of Skytian Capital.
A portrait of San Eng, the founder of Skytian Capital. [ 135MM PHOTOGRAPHY | Courtesy of Skytian Capital ]

It’s a very interesting emerging mix because even in Airbnb, more reservations are now longer term as opposed to just touristy two or three days. And that’s obviously driven by work from home, (and) accelerated by COVID, but it’s a trend that was emerging pre-COVID.

Tampa’s housing market is exploding but some worry there’s a growing risk for a cool down or correction. How do you navigate that?

That’s the billion dollar question right? We’re very conservative. We don’t really acquire assets that don’t have cash flow, so stabilized properties. Normally 90-95 percent occupied and often (they) may be neglected by landlords and there’s opportunities to truly improve it, but not necessarily gut it 100 percent. As leases expire, we may change the kitchen, upgrade with a washer and dryer appliances or add the amenities like dog parks or to change the courtyard. So we are improving it but we’re not doing development work. We might make less money than if we were doing ground up, but we’re OK with that.

What will happen to the people living in the apartments now?

Some of their leases are expiring. Many are month to month. So as they leave, we will upgrade. And obviously those that want to stay we will accommodate them. It’s a very high turnover market, but it’s as with any city.

What would the price be compared to the apartments that are there now?

We haven’t finalized the price points yet and we’re still finalizing the design. But I can tell you that if you walk around downtown St. Pete, there’s quite a large supply and new supply of luxury condos. And there’s 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 bit older. We don’t want to be another luxury builder.

We’re not going to be a one-star hotel, but what we see is a niche where there’s so many creatives here or health care workers that are eco conscious and tech savvy travelers that wants something different right. So this is a very nice niche. We’re proud to be in Tampa first with this concept. It’s the perfect location to test out something like this.

Why did you decide to call it Satoshi Hideout?

Bitcoin was created in the wake of the Lehman Financial Crisis as a sort of anti-Wall Street, anti-establishment because the belief was that centralized powers were screwing the little guys. So the whole idea of decentralization and the use of technology is to really democratize money, as well as society. So this whole ethos, whether you believe it or not, it’s what hosts a very cohesive, passionate community. This ethos tries to capture that spirit of democracy, sharing this for all and innovation.

The blockchain is massive and it’s only getting bigger, so we wanted to honor the creator of blockchain because he or she or they, we don’t know if Satoshi is a person or a group of people or whether they’re a man, woman, Black, white or Asian. We don’t know right? Because nobody does. But we do know that they created this thing, worth billions in Bitcoin and they’re hiding somewhere.

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