D.C. Real Estate Scions Crowdsource Future H Street NE Market Online, With More to Come
Last year, developers Ben and Daniel Miller promised to deploy some "pretty crazy shit" to make enough to fund their projects, but kept mum on the specifics. As of yesterday, the crazy shit has been revealed: They're selling shares of 1351 H Street NE, which will house Asian-restaurant-slash-streetwear-store Maketto, to anyone with an Internet connection and $100.
In exchange for $100, investors get a share of 30 percent of Maketto's profits. The perks escalate from there—a $100 investor gets an invite to shareholder party, while $10,000 investors get an annual dinner cooked by Toki Underground chef Erik Bruner-Yang, who is opening Maketto with DURKL streetwear's Will Sharp.
The Millers' Maketto scheme fills every box in D.C. zeitgeist bingo. It's on H Street NE. Bruner-Yang's Toki Underground can't empty its stools fast enough. And it's got the same doing-good-while-doing-well feeling that's popular in both Washington and Silicon Valley: It's a little bit Kiva, a little bit Kickstarter, and a lot Popularise, the brothers' previous effort to crowdsource development ideas.
"No one's ever bought a piece of a building on the Internet," says Ben.
While the brothers, sons of Verizon Center and Washington Harbour mastermind Herb Miller, had the idea to sell shares in a building on the Internet years ago, they faced problems setting it up legally. It took months just to find a lawyer who would do the paperwork. And now, a new problem: convincing people to send $100 to people they've never met.
So far, the brothers have won the trust of 38 investors, raising $76,900 of their $325,000 goal. Ben Miller says they expect to start the permit process in September, and are aiming for a spring 2013 opening.
The Millers appears to have more plans for Fundrise on H Street. According to SEC filings, they've registered a corporation with the Fundrise name for a building at 906-908 H Street NE, which they bought in June for almost $1.4 million. Ben Miller wouldn't comment on any future building plans, saying SEC rules forbid it.
But Ben Miller is more than happy to talk about Maketto and the side benefits of herding together microinvestors. For one thing, it could speed up the permit process. "Hey, if everybody's invested, it's going to be really hard for government to be nonresponsive," he says.
Outdated photo via Google Maps streetview