Tenderloin’s All-Female Food Hall Breaks Ground

But La Cocina Municipal Marketplace needs another $1.75 million to finish construction on time.

Mayor London Breed, second from right, and Supervisor Jane Kim, second from left, break bread to mark construction beginning on La Cocina, an all-women-led dining hall. (Photo by Ida Mojadad)

Rather than pose with a hard hat and shovel, Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Jane Kim broke bread on Monday to celebrate the construction of what will become the first female-led food hall in the country.

But food incubator La Cocina must raise another $1.75 million to see through the six-month construction project. While executive director Caleb Zigas is confident they will reach the $4.7 million needed for construction, they need another $300,000 for operating costs to keep it affordable for the Tenderloin community.

Once it does, La Cocina Municipal Marketplace at 101 Hyde St. can fill a void in two major ways.

The 7,000-square-foot hall would subsidize overhead costs to allow low-income entrepreneurs into the dining scene without high commercial rents. For Tenderloin residents often in stove-less SROs, a marketplace like La Cocina will be one of the few options to eat healthy, freshly prepared food at an affordable price — with the aspect of a social gathering hub.

“I think it’s going to be something really wonderful for this area to have a space we can come to with our families to eat lunch or dinner and just relax or enjoy,” said Guadalupe Moreno, a Tenderloin neighbor who participates in La Cocina’s Culinary Incubator Program and now owns Mi Morena. “I cook for you like I cook for my family.”

As Kim recalled at the groundbreaking, it took her mother receiving loans to launch a successful small business that allowed her family to buy a home. That incubation and investment in female entrepreneurs and immigrant women often means their family succeeds, she says.

Kim, who represents the Tenderloin, also remembers the community fighting to keep a post office branch in that location. When it subsequently closed, negotiations with the owner of 1066 Market St. meant the spot fell under city ownership in 2016 and would be turned into affordable housing — a years-long process.

“It was a huge loss for our community,” Kim said of the post office closure. “We wanted to make sure the block was activated.”

La Cocina stepped in to add a marketplace, which was originally thought to cost $2 million in May 2016. The city agreed to split the bill, which ballooned to $4 million in December 2017. The city committed another $500,000 and La Cocina has been fundraising ever since.

But because La Cocina wishes to remain debt-free, a pending $1 million loan from the Dignity Health Foundation is considered as a back-up, just to keep funds flowing until the remaining $1.75 million is raised. It is also looking to Mid-Market businesses to contribute larger donations as a sign that they are investing in the area, which their employees will benefit from.

Most contributions “are from individual donors, which has been really wonderful,” says Jessica Mataka, La Cocina’s development and communications director. “We feel pretty optimistic about it.”

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