Allen Neighborhood Center Awarded Grant for Cleanup and Expansion

Improvements include housing, accelerator kitchen and grocery store

The Allen Neighborhood Center has been awarded an $850,000 brownfield redevelopment grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The grant will be used to clean up a contaminated property on East Kalamazoo Street and convert the building, which will be called Allen Place, into apartments, an accelerator kitchen, a bodega-style grocery store, commercial space and a high school culinary program, said Joan Nelson, director at the center.

The Allen Neighborhood Center is a place-based organization that serves as a nonprofit hub for neighborhood revitalization. Co-sponsor of the project is the nonprofit Cinnaire Solutions, Nelson explained.

“Our Allen Place project envisions converting the Kircher Complex at the 1600 block of East Kalamazoo Street … to a comprehensive community space that provides 29 units of mixed-income housing along with commercial space, integrative services and programming,” Nelson said.

She said the apartments – consisting of four studio units, 15 one-bedroom apartments and 10 two-bedroom units – will be targeted at all age groups to attract families, seniors and young professionals.

“However, we anticipate that many of ANC’s neighbors over the age of 55 will be interested in living in our ‘age-friendly’ development – where design will facilitate social interaction and build on ANC’s extensive social programming,” she said.

The accelerator kitchen will serve as the “next step” for four food entrepreneurs and graduates of the center’s 5-year-old incubator kitchen program, Nelson explained. The accelerator kitchen will offer 24/7 access to a licensed, shared-use kitchen that will also provide a small work and storage area for wholesale production and limited retail.

“Of the 36 businesses that have used our incubator kitchen, 75% have been women-owned and 30% have been owned by people of color – populations which often experience barriers to entrepreneurism,” Nelson said. “The accelerator kitchen is a key next step in creating a pipeline of small-scale food processing opportunities for entrepreneurs – incubator to accelerator to sole proprietorship – and connecting those opportunities to a range of ANC’s synergistic, food-related activities, such as the Exchange Food Hub and Allen Farmers Market.”

Nelson said the center is in discussion with two entities to operate the grocery store. The overall project will help in development of the Allen neighborhood community.

“This opportunity-rich environment will maximize success for these small food enterprises,” she noted. “It will also help to grow the emerging, neighborhood-scale, urban food innovation district serving this low- to moderate-income community.”

Nelson said planners hope to begin cleaning up the site in the fall, with a target of the end of 2020 or first quarter of 2021 for completion.

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