For more than 20 years, the property at the corner of Montebello Terrace and Harford Road in Lauraville has sat vacant, a spot of blight in the neighborhood’s otherwise charming business district. But there may soon be new life on the lot, as the site is transformed into a commercial kitchen open to community members and businesses alike.
The idea stems from the success of the Tuesday evening farmers’ market, which has been offering both fresh produce and prepared foods on the lot—once a gas station with a three-bay service garage—since 2009.
“It became apparent that there were so many people who wanted to participate [as vendors] in our little evening market, but they had no access to a commercial kitchen,” says Regina Lansinger, the director of Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street. “This would be answering a big need. It would allow [potential vendors] to do not just our market, but any farmers’ market, and not just farmers’ markets but their own businesses.”
The project, officially called Main Street Kitchen at the Lot, could cost upwards of $700,000 and is still in the fundraising stage. But it has already secured a pledge of $250,000 from the state, and an additional $50,000 from local backers. Part of that $50,000 came from local businesses that are selling paper lemons for $5 donations, an effort that plays off the black and yellow mural painted on the old garage that reads, “Help turn this [lemon] into LEMONADE.”
Once completed, Lansinger says the 1,800-square-foot building will house a health department-approved kitchen with multiple ovens, cooktops, fryers, tables, and workspaces. Workstations will be rentable for an hourly fee, and she hopes the space will be used by both professionals and amateurs looking for extra room for special projects. Main Street Kitchen also will become the latest community food space in Baltimore, following B-More Kitchen on York Road and Baltimore Food Hub in East Baltimore.
Richard Marsiglia, president of the board of Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street, says the kitchen is part of a broader plan for the site. “The main goal of the project is to become a town square,” he says. “There’ll always be something happening at the lot.”