The first building at the Baltimore Food Hub, a planned two-acre campus of food-related businesses, opens Tuesday at a former brownfield site in East Baltimore, offering a space for novice cooks and food entrepreneurs to launch their culinary careers.
Known as the Baltimore Food Enterprise Center, the one-story silver building at 1731 Llewelyn Ave. will be home to two programs designed to grow the workforce for Baltimore’s burgeoning food industry. Over the next few months, the nonprofit Humanim will move its City Seeds and School of Food operations into the teaching kitchen, commercial kitchen and office space at the 7,500-square-foot center, which will serve as an anchor for the $25 million Food Hub campus in Broadway East as its remaining five buildings are renovated and restored.
The 19th-century buildings, once used as water pumping stations, will ultimately incorporate flex manufacturing space, offices and a year-round market when construction wraps up in winter 2018. The site was previously owned by the city and occupied by city agencies including the Department of Transportation and Department of Public Works. The American Communities Trust bought the buildings in 2014, and construction on the Food Enterprise Center started in September 2016.
“I would consider it the anchor project at this point, since it’s the first piece of the Food Hub to get put into place,” said Ed Sabatino, executive director of the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, which partnered with Humanim to raise funds for the $4.2 million facility.
Two large kitchens outfitted with stainless steel equipment are the center’s main features. One will be used as production space for Humanim’s City Seeds program, which provides culinary job training to people with barriers to employment. City Seeds workers operate catering services, prepare wholesale foods and staff in-house cafes for a number of Baltimore hospitals, universities and foundations. With more space at the Food Enterprise Center, the group could more than double its workforce of 21 by the end of next year, according to Cindy Plavier-Truitt, senior vice president and chief business officer at Humanim.
“It’s hard to produce that [much] out of our little kitchen,” she said of the program’s current rental space in Hampden. “We are really actively trying to expand on our catering side,…