Excerpts from blockclubchicago.org:

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and Delta Institute asked neighbors more than two years ago what kind of development they wanted in their neighborhood as they mapped empty lots, vacant buildings and brownfield sites across Little Village. When it came to an abandoned fire station at 2358 S. Whipple St., neighbors saw potential, reimagining it as a commercial kitchen that would empower the bustling street vendors on the city’s Southwest Side.

Now, that vision could become a reality. The commercial kitchen project is among six proposals vying for the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s $10 million Chicago Prize. The grant aims to bring private capital to the city’s South and West sides.  Last week, the foundation narrowed the field of finalists from 80 applicants down to six.

As one of the six finalists, Little Village Environmental Organization, a 25-year-old group fighting for environmental justice in the neighborhood, and Delta Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit that collaborates to solve complex environmental challenges, will receive a $100,000 grant to fine-tune their pitch over four to six months, developing a business proposal that will be presented to the Chicago Prize committee. That committee will determine a winner of the prize in spring 2020.

As part of the plan, the fire station would be transformed into a community hub equipped with a commercial kitchen, food cart storage, and maintenance space. It would also have a small storefront for vendors to sell their products and have community space to host entrepreneurial and educational workshops. Mushrooms, micro-greens and other produce would be farmed in the building’s basement, too.

For years, residents have pushed the city to consider development that would put La Villita residents first, rather than develop logistic centers and warehouses that have inundated the neighborhood with diesel traffic and more pollution.

Although 60 percent of the city’s street-based food vendors come from Little Village and the neighborhood boasts some of the city’s best Mexican restaurants, there are no commercial kitchens in the neighborhood. The nearest is in North Lawndale, which is difficult for some people to get to from Little Village.

In addition to redeveloping the building, the groups also plans to build a food-cart cooperative led by the workers themselves. The aim is to create a closed-loop food economy for the neighborhood.

thanks Dennis