Why aren’t there more people of color in our culinary leadership and how can we influence change in the landscape?

A year and a half ago, Cohere co-hosted a fireside chat that posed a difficult question to our community of chefs and restaurateurs – Why are only 1% of Philadelphia’s Restaurants Black-owned? In a city where 43.6% of the population is Black, there was only one Black chef recognized in the 2020 top restaurant lists—a single example of the disproportionate amount of opportunities for black-owned food concepts and people of color in this space.

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Out of that conversation came some solution-oriented thinking

The event caught the attention of many of our partners: creatives, entrepreneurs, restaurant owners and landlords. One of them reached out to continue these conversations, and for the last year and a half we have been asking questions to our BIPOC food community:

  • What do you need? What support do you require for your food concept to grow?
  • What roadblocks have you encountered when opening or expanding your business?
  • How does innovation impact your business during and after the pandemic? What are you doing to differentiate from the traditional restaurant model?

Emerging Voices Dinner with Chef Chris Paul

Colors of Therapy Event with Sol Garden Studios

The answers informed our approach to the experimental programming we were doing at the Viaduct over the past 2 seasons. We wanted to give a space for budding entrepreneurs and brands who did not yet have brick and mortar space, to build equitable income for their next stage and get information real-time to help build followings, sell tickets, experiment with menus, etc. The results were often sold-out shows and dinners, and impactful partnerships for their brands.

Those gatherings at the Viaduct have grown into more permanent space—a mixed-use development with a first floor dedicated to BIPOC-owned food businesses.

Introducing Jasper House

Together, Southwood Properties, The HOW Group, and Sterling Wilson collaborated to develop Jasper House in Kensington. Set to launch in 2023, the building plans include 139 apartments and 10 artist studios, a courtyard garden, and 6,500 SF of light industrial space for BIPOC-owned food businesses on the ground floor.

We’re excited to announce that the first partnership for the industrial space is Christa Barfield of FarmerJawn, who will operate a community garden in the courtyard. The garden will invite people to volunteer and learn about urban agriculture, attend special dinners and events, and participate in FarmerJawn’s CSA program.

This garden is a way for people to know where their food is coming from. I see food as medicine, so this is all about reimagining spaces for the betterment of the people.

Christa Barfield, FarmerJawn

Looking Ahead

There are other tremendous food businesses & entrepreneurs to share soon, and the symbiotic nature of their spaces within Jasper House is key to ensuring a strong support system.

From peer-to-peer interaction to financing, Jasper House looks to address consistent challenges in the community, to ignite further change. That includes the quickly transitioning area around this property, with large residential buildings and new creative professionals living in them.

Over the course of 10 years, this project alone will provide $1M in subsidies to minority-owned businesses. We are proud of how this project is inspiring new financing models like this for other real estate developers. The impact this simple model is having will help create more sustainable city-wide transformation and long term growth for all involved.

Sterling Wilson

If you're interested in learning more about Jasper House or this BIPOC leasing model

Please fill out the form below or contact Antoinette Marie Johnson at amjohnson@cohere.city.