DC-based food-and-beverage accelerator Union Kitchen this week announced a new deal with the city’s forthcoming Eckington Place real estate project.
The project, called Eckington Yards, is a mixed-use site that will house both residential units and retail space, and is reportedly “inspired by New York City’s Meatpacking District.”
Union Kitchen’s mission is to guide food brands from concept all the way up to national distribution via a few different channels: a three-part accelerator program (which is currently accepting applications), a membership-based communal kitchen, and the Union Kitchen Grocery (UKG) which sells regular staples as well as dozens of local products, from chips to coffees.
The company currently operates four UKG outlets and a 17,000-square-foot communal kitchen in the Ivy City neighborhood and offers different levels of membership starting at $1,095/month. Similar to Pilotworks, the commissary kitchen membership (PDF) gives up-and-coming food brands access to appliances and equipment, events with investors and mentors, marketing and sales opportunities, and a direct line — online and onsite — to the wider Union Kitchen community.
For Eckington Yards, Union Kitchen will open another one of these communal kitchen spaces as well as another UGK.
What’s attractive about Union Kitchen’s involvement with the project is the opportunity for local food brands, whether that means additional exposure on store shelves or access to industrial-grade kitchens that can often be financially out of reach for smaller companies.
It’s also not a bad look for Eckington Yards, a project that’s been somewhat controversial in terms of what developers plan to give back to the local community. Union Kitchen might not directly mean more money for, say, nearby schools, but its emphasis on local food and business could help to keep Eckington Yards from turning into yet-another overpriced gated community that’s completely out of reach for hyperlocal business.
Union Kitchen joins sports complex Brooklyn Boulders, who signed on for space in earlier this year. Eckington Yards is slated for demolition in Q4, and by then we should also have a better idea of who else will climb aboard. Hopefully Union Kitchen’s presence means fewer mega-chains and more local flavor overall.