Banneker Ventures, a Black-led construction firm, has secured a $20 million loan from Amazon.com Inc.’s housing equity fund to build an affordable housing project in Prince George’s County, near one of the ecommerce giant’s hubs.
The firm, with offices in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, is the lead contractor for the $45 million project to build 193 affordable housing units in Capitol Heights, opposite the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station. The project, with ground floor retail anchored by a Bank of America branch, is due to be completed by 2025.
“It was a game changer. Without Amazon, this project would not have been able to get done,” Banneker Ventures founder and President Omar A. Karim, who earlier worked for a large New York law firm, told Washington Business Journal.
Amazon’s soft loan comes from its $2 billion Housing Equity Fund, established to fund construction of affordable homes near its three hubs. The units built with the loan will be preserved as affordable for 99 years. At current income levels, households earning between $36,000 and $54,000 annually — between 40% and 60% of median incomes in the region — will be eligible for the apartments.
Fulfilled over $200M Contracts
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Banneker calls itself a “boutique’ construction firm, and engages in real estate development, general contracting and facilities management services. It has managed contracts worth over $200 million.
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With juris doctor and Bachelor of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University, Karim initially worked as an associate at a large New York law firm. Later he served as general counsel for a Washington, D.C.-based development company before starting Banneker Ventures in 2005. The firm is named after an 18th century African-American naturalist, mathematician and astronomer who shaped Washington, D.C.’s early growth.
Karim also established the Banneker Foundation, which has given over $600,000 to young people studying in engineering sciences. In 2018, Banneker Ventures was named among Black Enterprise’s Top 100 Companies. Karim has won several awards including Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Howard University Institute for Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Innovation; and 40 Under 40 Award by The EnVest Fund, a D.C ‐based social venture capital fund.