Legacy Decatur to work with Refugee Women’s Network to create a commercial kitchenOutside of the Legacy Decatur administrative office, a sign for the Refugee Women's Network points toward its office at Williams Cottage at Legacy Park. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — Legacy Decatur will be working with the Refugee Women’s Network to create a commercial kitchen for the organization’s chef’s club program.
Legacy Decatur is the organization that oversees Legacy Park. Legacy Park is located on South Columbia Drive and was formerly the United Methodist Children’s Home.
The organizations will work to move the concept forward and negotiate a lease for the commercial kitchen space in Hawkins Hall.
In the initial letter of intent in 2021, Williams Cottage and the commercial kitchen were listed as spaces that RWN intended to lease. At the time, RWN decided to focus on their offices in Williams until they built that staff capacity and resources. They’ve come back to Legacy Decatur this year and are ready to move forward with the commercial kitchen project, said Madeleine Henner, Legacy Park director of programs.
Refugee Women’s Network is a nonprofit organization founded by refugee and immigrant women about 25 years ago. The nonprofit is based at Legacy Park.
“The mission of our organization is to inspire and equip refugee and immigrant women to become leaders in their homes, businesses, and communities in Georgia and beyond through innovative programming…,” said Sushma Barakoti, executive director of RWN.
As part of RWN’s economic empowerment programs, it has a program called chef’s club.
“How chef’s club started was there were women and families coming to us for support and one of the core programs under our economic empowerment program is that we help families get jobs in different mainstream employment spaces,” Barakoti said.
But some women either couldn’t be accommodated in mainstream jobs or wanted to explore other options. Some of them also wanted to open their own businesses, particularly food businesses.
“They had been food entrepreneurs in their own countries and some of them had restaurants. Some of them had catering, and some of them simply said we cook for 50, 60 people in our own family and the community, and we are good cooks,” Barakoti said.
RWN saw that the chef’s club was a viable program. The program provides technical training, helps with licensing, assists with business planning, and connects entrepreneurs with mentors.
“This affordable commercial kitchen, at this juncture, is a vital need, because now we feel like the women are all state certified, we are certified by the department of agriculture to work with them…,” Barakoti said.
The high cost of rent for commercial kitchen spaces also doesn’t allow for many entrepreneurs to formalize their business, and access to an affordable kitchen would address the high entrance cost, RWN’s presentation stated.
Legacy Decatur will be responsible for updates to the external kitchen entrance to create a usable dock and ramp, and convert a storage closet into an ADA bathroom, Henner said. Legacy Decatur will also do small plumbing and electrical updates to prepare the space for RWN.
The Public Facilities Authority fund has identified $80,000 for the commercial kitchen repairs.
RWN has already raised about $50,000 to invest in the appliances and aesthetic repairs to the commercial kitchen space.
In other business:
– The Legacy Decatur board, the board that oversees Legacy park, approved a memorandum of understanding with the Decatur Arts Alliance to manage and operate the art studio element of the Creative Village. The arts alliance will screen artist portfolios for studio and housing leases and support the artist giveback process.
The arts alliance will receive 10% of the Creative Village rental revenue to be used for arts programming at Legacy Park.
Within the Creative Village, Edwards, Trustees, Smith Cottages will be housing. Hyatt Cottage will be the studios.
Legacy Decatur staff anticipate Edwards and Trustees Cottages will be renovated and ready for tenants this year.
“Once renovated, the two buildings will offer one efficiency apartment, four two-bedroom apartments, one three-bedroom apartment, and one ADA four-bedroom apartment rented at the 60-80% AMI level,” Henner wrote in a memo. “Based on a conservative revenue estimation that assumes all bedrooms are rented at the 60% AMI level, Legacy Decatur can expect to generate $100,872 in annual rental revenue. Decatur Arts Alliance will receive 10% of these funds, estimated at $10,087 annually.”
– Legacy Decatur celebrated the ribbon cutting of the inclusive playground earlier this month.
The plans include a bonded rubber play surface for safety and easy access, and a range of play options for children — climbing equipment, slides, monkey bars, tunnels, a group swing, and a variety of sensory play stations, according to a newsletter from Legacy Decatur.
“We’ve had a ton of people out there every afternoon, every weekend,” Henner said. “Even when the weather is not perfect, it’s still been really, really popular.”
She added that the playground is introducing more people to the park.
– The Postal Pond boardwalk project is moving forward, and Legacy Decatur has a preliminary design from Cooper Carry.
“It looks a little bit different than what we initially thought of to allow for it to account for shifting water levels,” Henner said. “It’ll go out a little bit into the water, but it’ll still serve all of those same purposes of allowing better access to the pond while preventing erosion, accessible for aquatic ecosystems studies.”
– Decatur city staff and Legacy Decatur staff are also working on a parking plan for the park. As more spaces are activated at the park, they are looking to plan for traffic patterns in a way that provides a smooth experience, Henner said.
“For parking, thinking about what are some ways we can increase parking without increasing paved areas,” she said. “We’re not paving our areas. We’re not letting people park on the grass, but what are some ways that we can maybe have some one-ways or be creative with the assets that we have to increase parking and make the experience here a little more smooth for folks.”
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