From the pyramids to modern skyscrapers in the Middle East, the world’s greatest structures have often risen on the backs of the masses. Now the masses can finance them, and earn a profit.
Colombia is home to what is perhaps one of the largest crowdfunded buildings ever attempted (depending on how you define the term), a 66-story skyscraper called BD Bacatá Downtown. As what its developers call "the first skyscraper built by famous common people," Bogota’s tallest building is rising with $145 million supplied by 3,000 investors. The project was conceived as an investment pitch to the entire city: "How could we turn a 853-foot building with an investment cost of $240 million into a product that is affordable to all?" ask the developers in a promotional video. "It is a simple but not easy idea: by dividing the skyscraper into thousands of identical parts called FiDis."
The "FiDis" are ownership rights to the physical building that cost $20,000 over two years, with a down payment of 10%. Investors receive monthly payments reflecting the building’s profitability, projected to be 10% annually.. A sales and marketing organization for real estate companies, Prodigy Network, is handling the investment campaign.
BD Bacata’s backers say they will expand this model "to the 99%" by developing amusement parks, clubs, malls, and resorts with capital from small investors (although most of those "99%" do not have $20,000 in investment capital, twice the annual income of the average Colombian).
Yet the model itself may transform how we develop our cities. Traditionally, financing large urban projects has been the domain of a small number of extraordinarily wealthy banks, developers, and Wall Street firms. Crowdfuding platforms are starting to muscle into this world of investment capital (although they are still not even a drop in the bucket).
One of those is Fundrise, a new D.C.-based startup selling shares in commercial real estate for $100 each. Two brothers in real estate, tired of the control Wall Street exerted on investment capital, decided to ask the citizens of their own city to invest in commercial development projects.
Their first attempt, 1351 H Street NE along the capital’s trendy new H Street Corridor, is now three-quarters funded with 126 investors contributing $211,000. Fundrise’s motto speaks to its vision: "Build the city you want to live in."