Groundbreaking: ‘The Hatchery’ to incubate new food businesses on Chicago’s west side

A massive new food business incubator – The Hatchery – officially broke ground on Chicago’s west side on Oct. 24, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other notables dug in with ceremonial shovels. The 67,000-square-foot, $32.4 million complex will house 56 food-grade kitchens along with dry-cold storage, loading docks, and meeting and office spaces. The ambitious project is the result of a three-way partnership between IFF, Accion Chicago, and Industrial Council of Northwest Chicago (ICNC), with IFF serving as its lead developer, pulling together parcels of land and pieces of financing to bring the project to this stage.

The Hatchery aims to provide incubator spaces and services for about 100 start-up or early-stage food businesses. With 4,500 food-and-beverage industry companies based in Chicago – including big names like McDonald’s, Conagra Brands, ADM, Kraft Heinz, Oscar Mayer, and others – the hope is that the incubator will connect emerging food entrepreneurs with food industry leaders that can provide paths to success.

The project also expects to support up to 900 jobs, with 150 coming in the first year. Through a partnership with Garfield Park Community Council, The Hatchery – which is located near the CTA’s Kedzie Green Line station at Lake and Kedzie – hopes to offer some of its spaces and services to West Side residents at a significantly discounted rate.

One such hopeful entrepreneur is Gina Jamison, who was interviewed by Chicago’s ABC 7 at the groundbreaking. She runs a community garden selling picked okra and homemade soups. She told ABC: “I don’t want to really have a facility. I just want to have a place to prepare my food so I can have it at different stores. That’s my ideal.”

The Hatchery will also host Chef Rick Bayless’ culinary training program for low-income students and the new headquarters for Accion Chicago.

Support for the project includes $8.5 million in New Market Tax Credits; $7 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF); additional financing from IFF and other lenders; grants from Kellogg Co., ConAgra Foods, Walton Family Foundation and others; and the $1 sale of 12 vacant city-owned lots.  It is expected to open in 2018.

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