Cape Verde: Two dream investments in one

  • 11 years ago
  • Uncategorized

Everyone has a dream home in their mind: a place
where they would love to grow old. But what if your dream home is different to
someone else’s?

Dr. Bjorn Wenngren and his business partner Per
Tamm had a simple solution: split it in two.

After working with Save the Children for more than
a decade in Cape Verde, where he met his wife, the doctor knew that he wanted
to return to the islands to retire.

“We just found life there so pleasant,”
he explains. “The first step was for each of us to buy a house.”

She bought a home near the main beach of Praia
Laginha, while he purchased a four-bed townhouse in the middle of
nearby Mindelo with his good friend. But the two partners couldn’t
decide what to do with it. Dr. Wenngren wanted a medical practice. Per planned
to open a coffee shop. So they compromised, dividing the home in two halves – a
surgery upstairs and cafe downstairs.

The result is a versatile property that’s
ideal for a small business.

“There’s easy access to the
airport, the port, the local authorities…” agrees Dr Wenngren, as he
opens the door to the unique building. “It’s near everything.”

He’s right. Ideally positioned at Praça
Estrela in the centre of the town, the market is just around the corner, with
the new marina only a few more minutes away. Praia Laginha, meanwhile is a
quarter of an hour’s brisk walk down the road.

The central location has attracted a wide range of
residents to the house over the years, from workers to emigrants.

“We don’t know very much about the
early history of the house,” Bjorn admits, pointing out an old
Portuguese cannon in the ground with its rear end pointing down.  “We
think the cannon was used by rope-makers to fix the ropes out the front.”

The first floor was added in 1937 when the house
was being used for residence, he continues, along with an extension at the rear
to include an unfitted kitchen. The family living there at that time eventually
moved to the USA, he tells me, but the appeal of the Cape Verde lifestyle pulls
everyone back eventually.

“Recently we met a returning emigrant who
was born in the house in the 40s!” he laughs.

After that, the versatile house continued to be
used for a range of purposes. It was a sports club for a long time before being
abandoned to ruin. That’s where Dr. Wenngren stepped in:

“The previous owner had planned to
completely demolish the house to make way for a new modern building, but we
couldn’t stand the thought! Examination of the house showed it had
stone walls of high quality despite the interior being in total disrepair. They
keep the inside warm in the winter and the cool in the summer, so we prepared a
new plan to keep the outer walls and reconstruct the inside to meet both our

The conversion is effective, adding an entrance to
the first floor from a side street and a separate water and electrical system
for each floor. There’s even a wall at the top of the staircase to
divide them.

The finished product is a charming
property that’s as versatile as ever, ready to use for one or two
businesses – a guest house, an office, a restaurant – or part-rented out to a

“After the renovation, Tamm was working in
Africa and Latin America and I was in Asia and Africa so we decided to rent out
the house until it was time to retire,” he explains.

“We have had several tenants in recent
years,” he continues, “each as varied as the next. Downstairs
there have been small businesses and shops. The last tenant had a shop for boat
repairs and spare parts.”

Of course, the doctor points out, you could combine
them into one big residence with two toilets on each floor – and a shower on
the first floor – and get the most out of the spacious rooms.

“It would be easy for the next owner to
remove the wall and reunite the two floors,” he says, slapping the
wall cheerfully. “They may even want to change some of the other walls
as well – we’ve only done basic upgrading of the house from the last
tenant so there’s a lot of room for new ideas.”

Sadly, though, Dr. Wenngren and his partner won’t
be the ones to do it: Mr. Tamm now has a bistro in Sao Pedro, meaning the pair
no longer have a use for their unique property. But it’s still a dream
investment for one person, Bjorn smiles. Or two.

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life in Cape Verde?

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