A cohort of real estate developers and crypto bros have joined forces to create what earnestly sounds like one of the worst places I can imagine. It’s a—get this—“luxury crypto community,” composed of 60 properties on an island that will only be for sale via NFTs.
And, bonus, the hyper-exclusive, resort-style development is slated for construction atop the infamous site of Fyre Festival on Great Exuma in the Bahamas, according to a press release from earlier this month. On a 60-acre expanse of those barren and hallowed grounds, a company called AGIA International plans to build a massive marina, boat dry-storage, a spa and wellness center, a private movie theater, private beach, restaurants, and shops—in addition to the residential “pavilions and villas.”
“We bought this property because we saw its future, not its past,” said Eric Sanderson, co-founder of AGIA, in the news statement. Prior to starting up AGIA, Sanderson was the CEO of a company that built marinas for superyachts, according to a report from Curbed. Based on the AGIA website, other parties involved in the new project include an architecture firm known for building extravagant hotels, the Winklevoss twins’ crypto exchange venture, multiple web3 and/or blockchain marketing companies, and a luxury resort group.
And you too could join in the fun, provided you’re willing and able to drop $10,000 on minting an NFT first. That’s the cost of entry just to get on the “Allowlist,” which is functionally a reservation that lets you stand in line to purchase a property. Then, you mint another NFT equal to the value of the residence or build-site you’d like to buy. Note that one bedroom pavilions start at $1.5 million. A full, detached home will cost you between $2.8 million and $3.5 million. Finally, to seal the deal, you create one last NFT, called the “AGIA Key,” which basically serves as the deed to your new property.
So, simple: 3 NFTs and millions of dollars is all it takes to cement your blockchain access to “new-world ownership [in] real-world paradise,” as termed by the promotional materials. But is it really worth it? Well, if you consider all of the benefits, it’s a little easier to understand the appeal for certain investors. And AGIA’s advertising team was sure to say the quiet part out loud.
Buying on the island offers “permanent residency in a tax-free haven,” another online brochure for the future development emphasizes. “Owning in AGIA gives you an expedited pathway to Bahamian permanent residency, along with direct access to one of the world’s most sophisticated offshore banking systems...In the Bahamas, capital gains, corporate earnings, personal income, inheritance, dividends, resident corporations, partnerships and trusts are all tax-free. In addition, AGIA residents are exempt from annual property taxes in the Bahamas,” the pamphlet explains.
In years past, The Bahamas were considered a premier destination for money laundering. However, the country was removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s monitoring list in 2021. “The country has taken significant actions to strengthen its framework to fight money laundering,” declared the international watchdog organization. Nonetheless, Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis has actively embraced cryptocurrency and worked to attract crypto firms to the archipelago. Crypto exchange company FTX, for example, is headquartered there.
AGIA wanted to make it clear that this isn’t a “PR stunt” and that the company is very serious about developing the land that was once home to the spectacularly botched Fyre Fest. Why that spot? Because it’s “construction ready,” an AGIA spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email.
Why NFTs? Honestly, still unclear to me. Though the spokesperson explained that, “going the NFT route removes the slow-moving, expensive traditional layers [from real estate] including lenders, mortgage brokers, real estate agents and title companies; none of these are required with blockchain technology.” Granted, there is security in the traditional route. At least you know, at the end of the process, you’ll actually be getting what you’re paying for.
As of yet, almost all of the promises of AGIA outlined in those fancy renderings and photo collages are unbuilt. The open period for making a purchase begins this month. But Gizmodo would be remiss in its duties if we didn’t remind you that buying one of those $10,000 waiting list spots is inherently taking a gamble. If the community never materializes, those blockchain transactions are certainly non-refundable.
And if AGIA does fail, it wouldn’t be the first time a luxury development has floundered on the same site. Before it was the location of Fyre Fest, the plot in question was Roker Point Estates, a project first halted by the 2008 recession. The partially completed construction there languished for more than a decade and was up for sale as a complete package as recently as 2018, as first reported by Curbed.
The even bigger caveat: if AGIA does fail, it certainly wouldn’t be the first blockchain venture to do so. You could be skeptical of the whole operation. It might even be logical to wonder “is this a scam?”
Or you could let yourself be lulled into a peaceful stupor by this water gif on the AGIA landing page.
“We have a construction-ready site, the support of the Bahamian government, a fully entitled plan and the ability to immediately convey ocean and harbour front land to the purchasers in a crypto-friendly country with a stable democracy,” said a company spokesperson in an email to Gizmodo. And with all that in place, what could possibly go wrong?
Update 11/1/2022, 2:10 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comment from an AGIA spokesperson.