Q & A: 3 Questions for Ismail Ahmad

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One of the models for our spring fashion shoot, Ismail Ahmad is an art enthusiast, developer and the co-founder and chief operations officer of Promises Kept, a firm bent on rebuilding Baltimore.

How did Promises Kept get started?
My brother Mansur (Abdul-Malik) and I started Promises Kept in July 2012. We started it after being laid off from our jobs, almost at the same time. We both wanted to solve the problem of not only providing affordable residential spaces to people in need, but also to business owners, who, at times, are stuck between knowing they need a space to grow but not being able to afford to take on that overhead. The origin of the name comes from us understanding that every day we have promises we intend to keep with our families, friends, neighbors and community leaders. We wanted to have that daily pledge and loving intention extended through our business to ensure that we truly build mutually beneficial partnerships with each and every one of our stakeholders.

What are you working on now?
We added a third managing partner, Troy Richardson, and we have worked with organizations, such as Time, National Housing Trust, the Baltimore Development Corporation and Project PLASE, here in Baltimore. Now we are at a stage where we can really start to focus on business owners, creating shared, cooperative spaces where entrepreneurs can enjoy all the amenities of the space while paying 50 to 60 percent below-market rate rents.

We also are a part of the Emerging Developers Cohort, a program developed by The Harbor Bank of Maryland Community Development Corporation to bring together up-and-coming developers within Baltimore communities to address the blight that is common in many neglected communities and is a major issue in our city. Our group is currently finishing a block of row homes near John Hopkins Hospital and we plan to continue going around the city removing blight.

You are a big fan of Baltimore.
My partners and I were born and raised in Baltimore City. Each of us has witnessed and experienced some of the best and worst this city has to offer. We believe that removing barriers to entry and providing diverse, affordable access to spaces, residential and commercial, will help keep Baltimore moving in the right direction.

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