For many food entrepreneurs without a brick and mortar location, finding licensed commercial kitchen space often poses a challenge. Recognizing the need for kitchen space, as well as an opportunity to develop a state-of-the-art community facility that could serve both local food entrepreneurs and residents in need of quality employment, a team of area CDFIs and community partners joined forces in 2016.
With plans to construct a 67,000 square foot food incubator in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood, securing mainstream financing proved difficult, not to mention the initial pushback from local community members rightfully fearing the onset of gentrification.
However, after thoughtfully sharing plans for the facility and gaining support from Garfield Park community members, CDFI Allies for Community Business (formerly Accion Chicago), and business incubator the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC), and with development support from CDFI IFF, The Hatchery was launched.
Ultimately, over a dozen funders came together to make the $34 million facility possible, with a syndicated financing package comprising New Market Tax Credits (NMTC), tax subsidies from the City of Chicago, CDFI debt financing, traditional financing, grants, and more. The project broke ground in November 2017 and opened a year later in December 2018.
With entrepreneurs able to start leasing the kitchens this past February, The Hatchery houses 56 kitchens and can accommodate approximately 100 food entrepreneurs. In addition, the facility includes rentable cold and dry storage cages, loading docks, and training space. It also serves as the new home of Allies for Community Business, who co-owns the space along with ICNC.
More than just kitchen rental space, The Hatchery also offers culinary training. This past summer, nationally renowned chef and Chicagoan Rick Bayless launched Impact Culinary Training, a culinary training program for 16-24 year olds from Chicago’s West Side. Additionally, The Hatchery now serves as the home of the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market that supports local entrepreneurs and promotes healthy eating by providing produce grown from over 30 community gardens. The market has seen significant growth in both number of vendors as well as visitors.
“We’re putting the ‘neighbor’ back in the ‘hood,’ and we’re actually seeing something built in Garfield Park,” said Angela Taylor, the wellness coordinator for the Garfield Park Community Council, which was an early community partner and collaborator on the project.