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A new commissary kitchen is coming soon to Barelas.
Local nonprofits Homewise and the Street Food Institute announced this week plans to construct a 5,500-square-foot commissary kitchen for small food-based businesses looking to get their footing. The commissary is part of a larger mixed-use business incubator Homewise is leading that also includes storefront retail shops and office and studio spaces.
Construction on the Barelas Central Kitchen, 1411 Fourth SW, is expected to start this July, with plans to have the commissary completed in about 18 months, according to Johanna Gilligan, Homewise community development senior director.
Construction was made possible, in part, by to $2 million in Congressionally Directed Spending funds secured by U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.
Gilligan said plans for the commissary started in 2020 following a community survey that showed an interest in job training opportunities for Barelas residents.
Typically Homewise focuses on increasing home ownership and concentrates development efforts on building more homes and condos rather than pursuing commercial development.
“It’s definitely the largest commercial development or redevelopment we’ve ever done, and it’s also one of the first of our community responsive commercial developments,” Gilligan said. “We take this model of getting the input and then (using that to) drive our development decisions.”
She said Homewise connected with Street Food Institute around the time of the survey because she knew the organization was looking for a new location.
“We love what Street Food Institute is doing and we knew that their approach and what they would bring to the neighborhood matched with what people in the community were saying they wanted,” Gilligan said.
Street Food Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to training and supporting culinary entrepreneurs, is currently located on the Central New Mexico Community College campus in Albuquerque.
Once completed, the development will serve as the new home base for Street Food Institute with room for 20 other small businesses to use the commissary space.
Keith Romero, Barelas Community Coalition board chair, said he is excited to see the Street Food Institute move into the neighborhood because it is a “home grown” organization, and he hopes to see the project generate economic development in the area.
“(We’ve) watched those same buildings languish for many years with talks of economic development, but this is really a tangible step in that direction,” Romero said.
Prior to being purchased by Homewise, the space of the future development was primarily used for storage and Gilligan said residents have expressed excitement about the project and the new activity it will bring to the neighborhood.
“Fourth Street has a really interesting and rich history of bilingual businesses and was like a really important commercial corridor to the community,” Gilligan said. “… We think that this is a really nice way to bring that history into the future with a new kind of … approach to economic development.”
Currently, four of the six retail spaces are open and construction will include demolition of part of the existing building and then a build-out of a two-story space.
Tina Garcia-Shams, Street Food Institute executive director, said the organization will bring its slate of classes to the new building once it is completed as well as expand some of the services it offers due to an Economic Development Administration grant.
Street Food Institute students and commissary members will gain access to expert tax, marketing and legal advice because of the grant, Garcia-Shams said. The nonprofit is also using the funding to create an online curriculum and partner with organizations in San Juan and Grant counties, she said.