facility mock upWFAE | By Nick de la Canal
Published February 14, 2022 at 5:46 AM EST

What’s now a vacant warehouse off Interstate 85 near Brookshire Boulevard in Charlotte could soon become a bustling food market and distribution center with a rooftop garden, test kitchen, meat processing facility and a grocery store.

The nonprofit Carolina Farm Trust is developing plans for the facility at 511 South Hoskins Road. The site includes 25,000 square feet of existing building space and 60,000 square feet of green space.

The nonprofit already partners with many local farmers, helping them with land, equipment and other farming essentials. The group also purchases many locally produced foods to distribute to people in need, as well as local nonprofits, food trucks and restaurants operating in underserved areas of Mecklenburg County.

Carolina Farm Trust’s president and CEO, Zack Wyatt, said the new center could help the group expand its partnerships with local farmers and distribute more locally produced fruits, veggies, dairy products and meats around the county.

“Then we can make it easy for the community to actually participate in the local food economy because right now, it’s just very difficult to do that,” Wyatt said.

Mecklenburg County has already given $3 million in COVID-19 relief money to the new center, and the Charlotte City Council on Monday will consider giving the project an additional $1.5 million, also in COVID-19 relief money.

The total cost of the project, including renovation of the warehouse, startup costs and the first three years of operations, is $14 million.

Wyatt said the group plans to fundraise the remaining $10 million for the project. With the city and county money, Wyatt said work on the new facility can begin, with the center starting up some operations and opening its retail grocery store by spring 2023.

The remainder of the project could be completed by 2024 or 2025, Wyatt said.