Incubator kitchen & food retail space “first domino” in redeveloping Boston Square Together district

Kzoo Station: A Community Kitchen + Eatery will soon infuse new economic opportunities into Grand Rapids’ Boston Square neighborhood. SpringGR and Amplify GR,  partners in the Boston Square Together project at 1445 Kalamazoo St. SE, are renovating the 1,416 square-foot shuttered Good Shepherd Auto Repair building into a commercial kitchen and multi-tenant, retail, food-business space expected to open summer 2022.

“This project is the first major construction to come to the neighborhood in quite some time,” says Danielle Williams, director of economic opportunities, Amplify GR. “It is intended to be a catalyst for other growth and investment in the district, as well. This is the first domino.”

Community feedback generated the idea for Kzoo Station. Boston Square residents indicated a need for more diverse food options in the neighborhood and more nearby affordable spaces for food entrepreneurs to launch their businesses.

“We want Kzoo Station to be another option for folks who have businesses in the 49507 who are looking for ways to grow,” Williams says. “The goal is to help food businesses, specifically Black and brown food businesses, scale their businesses up and move their businesses forward.”

The incubator kitchen will offer flexible availability and price points that provide an easy entry point for small catering businesses doing a few jobs as well as affordable options for heavy users. The retail spaces will provide retail opportunities for the entrepreneurs using the kitchen.

“We anticipate being able to serve 20 businesses, if not more, leveraging that model of being able to stack businesses based on what their need is for the kitchen space. That will help bring the cost down for everybody,” Williams says. “We’re trying to create a facility that serves a gap in the market, as opposed to adding to what's already in the market.”

Prospective businesses will begin interviewing this month. On Jan. 18 and 19, 2022, open houses taking place in-person at the former Revolution Church building and virtually via Zoom will provide more information about Kzoo Station and other Boston Square opportunities.

“It'll be a chance for folks who have a business in the neighborhood or are looking to start a business in the neighborhood to come out and learn more about the resources that are available to them. We're really hopeful that these meetings will be a catalyst,” Williams says. “We will have information about the upcoming opportunities in Boston Square and some programs that we're developing for retail businesses. We'll also have partners there who are bringing technical assistance and resources to neighbors and businesses in Boston Square.”

Williams notes that some of those resources will include help with licensing, accounting, financing and marketing.

Architect for the project, Isaac V. Norris & Associates, and contractor for the renovation, Preferred Construction Group, are both Black-owned, Boston Square businesses. With construction slated to be completed late spring of 2022, Williams’ hope is that the kitchen will be up and running and retail spaces will be occupied this summer.

“The other piece is being able to take their businesses and scale them up in a way where they are wealth generators for themselves and their families. That’s a challenge for Black and brown businesses,” Williams says. “We really want folks in the neighborhood to have economic equity. We want to help businesses and help families accelerate economic mobility and generate wealth for themselves and generations to come.”

Written By Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Amplify GR
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.