Apartment Building and African Cafe Planned for Baltimore Street in Union Square

| November 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

Baltimore resident Nadine Ngouabe Dlodlo is planning a five-story apartment building and African market at 1401 and 1403 W. Baltimore St. in Union Square. The buildings, which will be demolished to make way for the new apartment building, have been vacant since 1978, have trees growing through them, and are being held up by beams on the sidewalk.

Dlodlo was raised in Cameroon and South Africa by a single mother after her father died at a young age. Her father was a real estate investor in Cameroon. When he died, his extended family took the assets from Dlodlo’s mother in a practice known as a landgrab, which she noted was a common practice in Cameroon.

Seeing the struggle her mother went through has fueled Dlodlo’s passion for housing security for single mothers. Dlodlo is also a single mother herself.

Her company is called Women’s Home Preservation Fund and she hopes she can attract single mothers to live in her building so she can provide a safe haven for their families. She hopes to target healthcare workers which she said includes many single mothers.

Dlodlo hopes to eventually go back to Cameroon to carry on this mission in her home country.

Dlodlo works in international banking and came to America to get her Masters of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. This is her first real estate development.

The apartment building at 1401 and 1403 W. Baltimore St. will likely have 12 apartments with most being two-bedroom units. She described it as “workforce” housing. There will be a courtyard and likely a rooftop deck.

The first floor will have The Madikizela Café which she hopes will introduce Baltimoreans to the tastes and culture of Africa. Along with some of the plates and fruit juices she misses from Africa, it will have African books and music as well as space for additional African vendors to sell items such as textiles.

The Madikizela Café is named after the maiden name of Winnie Mandela. Mandela was married to Nelson Mandela and was a member of the Parliament in South Africa.

The basement will have a space called The Teen Shack. It will be a STEM maker space with a 3D printer and will have space for teens to socialize. Dlodlo wants to make sure teens have a safe place to gather in Southwest Baltimore.

Dlodlo worked with architecture firm Gensler on the building design. The window patterns are designed with square, arch, and oval shapes to look like the pattern of textiles, which she said is an ode to Baltimore’s textile history. The windows will also have a motif patterned after the ndop fabric from her tribe in Cameroon.

The building facade features a lot of windows, beige brick, and dark gray accents.

Dlodlo said the project is a $3- to $4-million investment and she hopes to start construction next May. She is hoping to soon obtain her demolition permit and take the existing buildings down.

The project has gone before the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and has received support from all the surrounding community associations. She noted the financial, approval, permit, and construction challenges with this project, but said she she is moving forward because of the support of the community.

Dlodlo is also attracted to W. Baltimore St. because of plans by stakeholders in Union Square and Southwest Baltimore to redevelop W. Baltimore St. as an “international village” with businesses representing people from different backgrounds and ethnicities. A new Ethiopian cafe is planned as part of a new apartment building at 1515 W. Baltimore St.

“I am very supportive of the vision,” Dlodlo said. “This is something that would be impactful to Union Square.”

Women’s Home Preservation Fund and Gensler rendering 

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Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.