Work Underway on Ethiopian Restaurant and Apartment Building in Union Square

| May 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

Work is underway to convert three buildings at 1515 to 1519 W. Baltimore St. into an apartment building with first-floor retail. The retail space will include an Ethiopian restaurant and one additional suite.

The project is led by wife and husband Meseret Bekele and Samuel Ergete. They have owned Ethiopic Restaurant in the Atlas District (H Street Corridor) of Washington, D.C. for the last 10 years. Bekele and Ergete bought the Baltimore St. properties in 2017 after a tour of Union Square with friends who had moved to the neighborhood. They struck up a conversation with the former owner of the buildings which eventually led to the purchase.

Being from Washington, D.C., Bekele and Ergete were surprised by the affordability of the properties and thought it would be a good investment. The three buildings, which were constructed in 1920, total 7,180 sq. ft. The 1500 block of W. Baltimore St. is filled with vacant properties and 1517 and 1519 W. Baltimore St. were completely missing a front facade on the upper floors.

Bekele said they did not do a lot of research before making the purchase, but liked what they saw when touring the residential blocks of Union Square. They loved the large historic buildings in the area that were well maintained and noticed the lack of retail options.

Bekele and Ergete are currently rebuilding the facades at 1515 to 1519 W. Baltimore St. and will install windows next. They have worked with Southwest Partnership to secure a grant for the facade and said they are very grateful for the guidance from the organization. They have also used their savings to do some interior work and roof stabilization.

Bekele and Ergete are seeking more grants for the project and are working on getting loans. Bekele said the project could continue on for anywhere from one year to three years depending on how fast the financing evolves.

The Ethiopian restaurant will start out as a cafe and coffee shop and will eventually become a full-service Ethiopian restaurant like Ethiopic. Bekele and Ergete would like to add a dry cleaners or barber shop for the second retail space.

While W. Baltimore St. is lined with vacant buildings on and near the 1500 block, it is not an unfamiliar site to Bekele and Ergete. Bekele said the Atlas District was lined with vacant buildings when they opened Ethiopic, which was one of the first restaurants to move to the now bustling area. She sees the same improvements coming to W. Baltimore St.

This is the first real estate development for Bekele and Ergete, but they did undertake a complete renovation of their home in Capitol Hill and took on a lot of the work to build Ethiopic themselves. This experience peaked their interest in doing a large construction project in Baltimore.

The second and third floors of 1515 to 1519 W. Baltimore St. will have six one-bedroom apartments. There will be eight parking spots behind the buildings.

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