CommonWealth Kitchen buys Dorchester building for $7M
February 18, 2022 : Boston Business Journal, by Greg Ryan
Jen Faigel, the executive director of the food-business incubator CommonWealth Kitchen, has long wanted the nonprofit to own its building in Dorchester, rather than rent space there from the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp.
CommonWealth announced Friday that the dream is now reality: The incubator purchased the 36,000-square-foot building at 196 Quincy St. for $7 million.
“What a relief. It’s been a journey,” Faigel said. “We’ve been in negotiations and back-and-forth about the potential to buy this building pretty much ever since we’ve been in this building.”
CommonWealth is making the acquisition happen with city and state financing. It’s receiving $5.7 million from the city of Boston, some of it through a deferred loan, some through a loan through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The $2.5 million in state money is from MassDevelopment, with a portion of that a forgivable loan, according to Faigel.
The nonprofit has operated in the building, a one-time hot dog factory, since 2014. The purchase will cut its costs to occupy the space roughly in half, to just under $12,000 a month, Faigel said. It also gives CommonWealth the security that it has a long-term home in the city, something she saw as under threat, given that developers are interested in snatching up light industrial space like the facility to repurpose for life sciences use.
“The economic reality is they can afford way more than you can in something like food manufacturing,” Faigel said of the life sciences industry.
CommonWealth now occupies part of the building, which is also home to other food manufacturing tenants. The nonprofit has about 50 small-business members operating out of its shared kitchen, most of them owned by people of color. It helps them with everything from permitting to menu design to scaling up recipes.
The organization plans to spend $4 million to improve the building, reorganize the space, and expand inside of it. It intends to launch a capital campaign later this year. The Cummings Foundation has committed a $1 million matching grant to those efforts, according to Faigel.
The building has "evolved from a vacant eyesore 10 years ago to a thriving neighborhood workplace from which nourishing food is distributed nationwide, and dreams and opportunities are conceived, baked, and packaged,” Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp. CEO Perry Newman said in a statement. “We thank all of the visionaries, believers, funders, tenants, entrepreneurs, employers, employees, and especially the neighborhood for their faith, support, energy, and determination — and celebrate this exciting next chapter with (CommonWealth)."