Sometimes I daydream about living in San Francisco, the most restaurant-dense city in America — and then I look at average rent prices. But those of us who are fond of both Baltimore and going out to dinner may be in luck: A diverse group of Baltimore organizations (including Woodberry Kitchen, East Baltimore Development, Inc., and Humanim) are teaming up to create a $10 million “Baltimore Food Hub” just north of the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in East Baltimore. (Hat tip to Technically Baltimore for breaking the story.)
Food-centric redevelopment is something of a trend in Baltimore these days, and no wonder. As the BFH developers note, this kind of redevelopment embraces “localism” — that is, investing in businesses that will both employ and serve the local community. In a town with as many food deserts as Baltimore, this is even more crucial. So what can we expect from the project, which is projected to begin construction in January 2014 in order to open that fall?
(1) The current Eastern Pumping Site, which encompasses 34,230 square feet of buildings, many of them dating back to the 1890s, will become home to a “food business incubator” — in other words, commercial kitchen facilities that will help local foodie businesses get off the ground. (The project manager, Greg Heller, ran a similar program in Philly.) It’ll also provide food industry job training in partnership with Moveable Feast.
(2) That site will also play host to a production kitchen run by Woodberry’s Spike Gjerde (who may need more facilities since the Woodberry team just announced that they’re developing a new restaurant in Remington). Here, Woodberry chefs will prepare jams, jellies, sauerkraut, and artisinal baby food. (Seriously.)
(3) Two acres of unused land will become a high-intensity hoop farm run by Big City Farms, a for-profit urban farming group which is already grossing more than $150,000 from a half-acre plot in Middle Branch. The site will provide job training and skill building, with a focus on employing neighborhood residents as well as ex-offenders.
(4) The site will also include a teaching garden and classroom kitchen modeled after Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard project.
(5) The Hoen Site, a 59,000 square foot former lithograph building will be converted into leasable space for food production, aggregation, and distribution. There’s also the potential for it to become a central commissary for schools, but that would come later.