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Proposed Fitchburg business received $160,000 state development grant

January 13, 2020 : Sentinel & Enterprise, by Daniel Monahan

FITCHBURG — A proposed workspace and commercial kitchen in downtown Fitchburg received a $160,000 state grant last week which will help its owners buy equipment and build out the space, according to Gov. Charlie Baker.

The Urban Fork, located at 35 Main St., is slated to be a food incubator, test kitchen and boutique market, owner Matt Fournier said.

“We were very excited to hear the grant announcement,” said Fournier, who owns the space with his wife, Kelly. “I think this is a catalyst project for downtown. It’s big for the city, the community and the neighbors. What we have now is a food desert so we’re trying to fill that void.”

The funding is from the state Collaborative Workspace Program, which aims to build infrastructure to support new entrepreneurial ventures while spurring innovation and job creation at the local level.

Fournier said the food incubator will allow food entrepreneurs to access a shared kitchen build-out, which will help start ups or people looking to sell their food.

The retail space will allow local artisans to sell product and provide a food stop in the area, Fournier said. Ideally, he said, the change will promote walkability and increase foot traffic.

“The open kitchen will have a cafe-style feel,” he said. “People can use the space to network, read a book, or whatever they need. But at the same time, the kitchen will provide hot meals during the day and grab-and-go meals.”

Fournier said the test kitchen will allow, for example, guest chefs to come in for the day and teach cooking classes.

Fournier said he hopes to open doors in late spring.

The space is located in Fitchburg’s Transformative Development Initiative district, a program which aims to revitalize downtown and transform the area into a college town with a thriving arts and culture scene.

“We’re excited to be a part of the community and to bring a new taste downtown,” Fournier said.

According to Mayor Stephen DiNatale, the business will also be the first recipient of the state’s Vacant Storefront Initiative, and can receive up to $10,000 in tax credits.

“It takes a vision, a little motivation and an entire community to make projects like this happen,” DiNatale said. “Great work, Fitchburg!”

Fournier added that the business wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the state’s support, city officials and MassDevelopment.

Baker announced a total of $1,892,910 in grants to 31 organizations during a ceremony Thursday morning in Worcester.

The grants will strengthen community-based innovation and entrepreneurship in 22 communities throughout the Commonwealth, he said.

“Massachusetts’ economy thrives when local entrepreneurs, creators, and small business owners have the space and resources they need to be successful,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a release. “The Collaborative Workspace Program represents an important tool for our Administration to foster innovation and drive job growth in the Commonwealth.”

“I’ve been proud to tour several co-working spaces around the Commonwealth to see firsthand how the Collaborative Workspace Program is supporting job creation and community building,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said in a release. “I was pleased to announce grants today to 31 organizations, which will use funding to improve or expand their co-working spaces, buy needed equipment, or explore opportunities for a co-working space in their city or town.”

Through its first three rounds of grants, the Collaborative Workspace Program provided over $5 million in 81 awards for the planning, development, and build-out of different types of collaborative workspaces.