Once down on its luck, Baltimore, Maryland is now on a rebound. One entrepreneur helping to make the city a better place to live is David Akinniyi, founder and owner of the Akinniyi Group, a real estate development and leasing company. His goal is to enhance the lives of Baltimore residents by creating luxury communities designed to foster personal growth, wellness, and inclusion.
Akinniyi began the business in 2020, providing apartments where upwardly mobile residents can become the best versions of themselves. “I want the people that live in these communities to have a good space to study, to learn, to be whatever they’re trying to achieve. I want them to have a functional space that allows for that.”
With that in mind, the units feature balconies and outdoor space, so tenants can enjoy sunlight and exterior access. There’s even space for gardens and plants. Akinniyi also wants the buildings to be inclusive, places where everyone is welcome, regardless of their economic, ethnic, or racial background. In addition, the apartments are affordable, not high-priced units that push residents out of their own neighborhoods.
Akinniyi started investing in Baltimore real estate in 2018, buying a single-family home to rent in the Pigtown neighborhood. It’s the same place where he’s opening his new five-unit apartment building. He’s purchased several other properties in the same location over the past few years.
A software coder, Akinniyi grew up in Dallas, the child of Nigerian immigrants. After attending Boston University and earning an MBA, he joined a consulting firm. Akinniyi played football in college and even had a short stint in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings. Many of his college football teammates came from the Baltimore area and Akinniyi was drawn to the city. He saw the area’s potential, a community where an aspiring entrepreneur might make a difference. Akinniyi has long had an interest in real estate and Baltimore was a place where a new developer like himself could get involved.
“I’ve always been interested in housing. I felt like real estate was a good place to be and that in Baltimore I could purchase something and make something happen here,” Akinniyi said.
Akinniyi bought a parcel of land where he planned a multi-family apartment building. While he’d purchased prebuilt properties before, constructing a new build was a novel and more challenging experience. He needed zoning approvals, permits and other upfront paperwork that made the process more complicated. On top of that, he started in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when labor and materials were in short supply.
Baltimore Community Lending is a mission-based, certified CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) whose loans help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged communities join the mainstream economy. CNote partners with CDFIs such as Baltimore Community Lending in communities throughout the United States, financing small businesses, providing technical assistance, and empowering local entrepreneurs like David Akinniyi.
The local CDFI greatly sped up the process, helping him with better interest rates than regular lenders, and providing him with the mentorship he needed to make sure there was no overlooked detail.
“I would work with Baltimore Community Lending as much as I can. I’m protected from a lot of things. Even the way they set up their draw schedules and payments and everything with the builder. It ensures that you’re protected and the building’s going to get built on time and on budget. So, their system is very helpful to anybody that’s new to trying to build anything. They protect you as an entrepreneur, somebody taking a risk,” Akinniyi pointed out.
Thanks to Baltimore Community Lending’s diligent work and partnership, David completed construction on the building and hopes to welcome tenants this summer. The real estate investor has big plans for his properties and the larger area. However, this multi-family building is just the start.
Within the next one or two years he’d like to buy a parcel of about an acre and build in phases in a residential community of some 50-75 units. The place will feature amenities including a gym, a business center, and a recreational center. Five years from now, David Akinniyi believes this new community will help transform the neighborhood and the larger city in a much more positive and uplifting way.
Akinniyi hopes his new apartment building and the larger residential community he’s planning, will provide a home for residents who want a decent place to live and thrive. Unlike unscrupulous out-of-town real estate opportunists hoping to make a quick buck, he’s staying in Baltimore and making his investments part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
“I just really want people to have a good place to live. It’s not just for money. It’s more to enhance the city. And for other investors out there, if you truly go at it with that approach, that will not only help you, but it will help everyone in the city, so you’ll increase the beauty for everyone. So, I think it’s a better approach than a lot of people that you see just trying to make money and that’s the only mission.”
- Baltimore Community Lending supports the revitalization and strengthening of underserved communities throughout the Baltimore metro area through innovative and flexible financial assistance designed to promote community development.
- CNote is a women-led investment platform that empowers individuals and institutions to invest locally to further economic equality, racial justice, gender equity, and address climate change.