San Francisco nonprofit La Cocina has helped kickstart 30 brick and mortar food businesses from women entrepreneurs through its culinary incubator program and Mission District commissary kitchen, giving the Bay Area hit restaurants like Nyum Bai, Reem’s California, and El Buen Comer. Many more are likely to follow through a new food hall, La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, which breaks ground this week and will open next year, offering eight food stalls and an emphasis on affordable food for the Tenderloin neighborhood.
La Cocina Municipal Marketplace is a seven-year interim use of vacant space at 101 Hyde (at Golden Gate), an empty post office closed by the federal government amid budget cuts and currently owned by the City of San Francisco. 101 Hyde is eventually slated for affordable housing development, but in a temporary use modeled after food hall projects like The Hall on Market Street, La Cocina will activate the space in the meantime.
The City of San Francisco has pledged $1.5 million to support the project, with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development guiding the process. Architects Perkins + Will provided a pro bono redesign of the 7,000-square-foot space, which includes a 1,000 square foot commissary kitchen complete with a walk-in and scullery. La Cocina has also been fundraising heavily for construction costs, raising 64 percent of a $5 million goal.
Several La Cocina food businesses like Nyum Bai and Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement have found success through food halls like the Emeryville Public Market, another basis for the Municipal Marketplace project. With one of their own, La Cocina can drastically reduce the massive overhead costs entrepreneurs would otherwise require to open — the types of financial obstacles that often prevent women of color and immigrants from entering the marketplace.
Meanwhile, since the post office’s closure, 101 Hyde has become a blighted block. “We know this is one of the toughest intersections in the Tenderloin,” says area Supervisor Jane Kim, citing criminal activity.
Neighbors also lack access to decent food: 70 percent of housing in the Tenderloin is Single Resident Occupancy, and just 39 percent of residents have access to a stove. Many can’t even access a refrigerator, and while the area doesn’t lack for liquor stores, quality groceries are hard to come by.
Many La Cocina entrepreneurs like Guadalupe Moreno, who cooks Mexico City style tacos at her business Mi Moreno, know the area well. She’s lived a block from 101 Hyde for 18 years with her husband and children. She and others from La Cocina will enter an internal application process to operate the seven stalls, while an eighth stall will offer rotating pop-ups.
“I’m really exited to think that next year in this old post office, we could share our food with the neighborhood,” Moreno says. “We don’t really have any places like this, so the marketplace is going to be very important for my family.”