$16M Food Hub Could Break Ground Next Month
A blighted section of East Baltimore—once a filming location for The Wire—is one step closer to becoming a $16M campus for food-related businesses.
The Baltimore Food Hub could break ground as soon as next month, and the first phase—a 15k SF commercial kitchen and incubator—could open summer 2016, says American Communities Trust CEO Greg Heller. The nonprofit and Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC) are overseeing the development. If all permits come through, they'll demolish a warehouse next month and HEBCAC will begin construction in September on the kitchen and incubator (the light gray "City Seeds" building in rendering).
Budding "foodpreneurs" can rent out space to make their lemon blueberry muffins. Humanim, a local workforce development nonprofit, will oversee the kitchen and train entrepreneurial cooks and bakers on how to get their goods to local restaurants, universities and hospitals. Also on the table for the first phase is a food prep area for food trucks, an urban farm and, possibly, a farmers market.
Greg was one of the folks behind a food incubator in Philly, the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises, which opened in 2012. The Baltimore Food Hub cleared a major hurdle earlier this year when the first phase got the OK from the city's zoning board. Funding for the Baltimore Food Hub is coming from a combination of state and federal historic tax credits, federal grants, foundations and the state, which is ponying up $1M for site work and environmental cleanup.
The second phase of the Food Hub will include restoring three historic buildings on East Oliver Street—a former water pumping station—into offices, flex space and food truck parking. It will be wrapped up late 2016 or 2017, Greg says. The building pictured will house offices for food entrepreneurs who don’t want to work at their kitchen table.
Food entrepreneurs, farm-to-table-restaurants and sustainable agriculture are driving innovation in many cities, which is why the Food Hub is crucial to Baltimore's economy, says ACT chairman Bill Struever. The Food Hub will create about 200 culinary jobs over three years in the low-income neighborhood surrounding Johns Hopkins Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Science + Technology Park. It would also spruce up the area just south of the Amtrak rail lines, so train riders would see a “more joyful entry,” Bill says. Now they just see eyesores like the building pictured. That is one of two flex buildings that could be used to manufacture, store or prep food.