Work begins on Chicago culinary incubator

Recipe for Success

Work begins on Chicago culinary incubator

The Hatchery is located directly west of Chicago's Downtown in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. (Wight & Company)

Chicago takes culinary experimentation seriously. In recent years, a number of restaurants throughout the city have developed novel cuisines and presentations that have made the city a magnet for foodies and chefs alike. With the groundbreaking of a new project on the city’s West Side, the food community is one step closer to having a space where young chefs can hone their skills and launch their businesses.

The Hatchery is a 57,000-square-foot incubator that the city hopes will keep the creative juices flowing in the burgeoning local restaurant industry. Located in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, directly west of the Loop, The Hatchery will include 56 private rentable kitchens, one large shared kitchen, co-working space, multi-function spaces, bulk storage space, and an industrial loading dock. The complex will be situated in a building from the 1920s as well as a new larger structure. Acting as designer, architect of record, structural engineer, and construction manager is Chicago-based Wight & Company, with site design group handling landscape design.

The Hatchery will include an outdoor plaza for food and community events. (Wight & Company)

“Adaptability in design is critical for The Hatchery to accommodate flexible programming and future growth,” said Matt Zolecki, project executive for Wight & Company, on the occasion of the groundbreaking. “We are creating a space not just for food production, but for mentoring, coaching, presentation, and collaboration.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand for the event, and the city has shown its support for the project in part through the selling of the needed 3.5 acres of land to the development for $1. While it is not overly common for the city to sell land and buildings for such a small amount, it is also not unheard of. In many West and South Side neighborhoods, the city owns enormous amounts of land, which it is willing to let go to organizations that have a clear mission to improve the area. Developing the Hatchery are two non-profit community organizations, Accion Chicago and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC). Accion Chicago will also base a new headquarters in the development, where it will work to provide direct access to small business loans and support programs for The Hatchery’s tenants and members of the local community. Kellogg and ConAgra, multinational food companies with Michigan and Chicago headquarters, respectively, are also sponsoring the project.

The Hatchery’s co-working space will foster the small businesses, its future tenants. (Wight & Company)

The complex is expected to be completed in 2018 at a cost of $34 million. Thanks to a scalable and flexible design, the initial layout of the project can then be adapted as tenants grow and cook up new ways of working in the space.