Courtesy of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake/Twitter

A transformation is underway for a run-down 3.5-acre section of East Baltimore where city leaders say there will soon be plentiful space for urban farming, commercial production kitchens, job-training facilities and a fresh food market.

City and federal leaders, reps from nonprofits and developers and community residents gathered Tuesday afternoon at 1801 East Oliver Street in Broadway East for the Baltimore Food Hub’s groundbreaking ceremony.

One in four Baltimoreans live in so-called food deserts – places where residents cannot access fresh, healthy foods – according to a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers published last June. Those behind the Food Hub say the market that will be built there can help make a dent in that problem.

“It will make sure that the young men and women and senior citizens that inhabit this neighborhood don’t have to travel miles on the bus line or try to find a ride to get healthy, accessible food,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams, according to Baltimore magazine.

A selfie w/ @MayorSRB @ #FoodHub groundbreaking. EDA is working w/ #Baltimore to grow food, jobs, & dreams! #EconDev

— EDA (@US_EDA) September 20, 2016

Community development partner American Communities Trust (ACT) has teamed up with social impact nonprofit Humanim to make the Food Hub a reality. ACT bought the property from the city for $500,000 in 2013, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.

The total cost for the project has been estimated at $23.5 million.

In addition to providing residents with new access to healthy choices, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said the project will produce dozens of new jobs and plenty of opportunity for food entrepreneurs in the area.

The Baltimore Food Hub is a $23.5 million historic project in Broadway East community — creating dozens of jobs and opportunity.

— Stephanie (SRB) (@MayorSRB) September 20, 2016

Rev. Reverend Donté L. Hickman, Sr., of the Southern Baptist Church on nearby North Chester Street, said at a press conference that the project could help to “serve an underserved, disinvested population in our city.”

“While we may not have a $660 million TIF, you have hearts that this community can be rebuilt for the benefit of its people and to the glory of God,” he said.

More information about Baltimore Food Hub available here.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...