(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
A storefront in Dundalk’s business district is home to a new incubator looking in part to help spur Main Street businesses in the southeast Baltimore County community.
The Forge opened on Monday inside 11 Center Place amid the collection of early-1920s buildings and walkable streets dubbed Historic Dundalk Town Center.
Dundalk gets an incubator, as officials cut the ribbon on The Forge in the Baltimore County community’s Town Center pic.twitter.com/RJQgW6UYgX
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With the space, Dundalk Renaissance Corporation is looking to provide a gathering point for entrepreneurs and businesses, as well as community resources. It’s offering flexible lease terms for dedicated desks and private office space, along with community areas including an event space, kitchen and coffee bar. There are also conference rooms for meetings, and a private area to make calls. One of the spaces is also dedicated for a retail startup, said Amy Menzer, executive director of Dundalk Renaissance, which is also headquartered inside the building.
The space also includes creative touches. Baltimore artist Michael Owen (who is behind the Baltimore Love Project) created a mural that spans a two-level entrance to one of the spaces. “On Brighter Days” aims to capture a progression of natural elements and moods on stairs and walls that can be viewed when entering and exiting the building.
Dundalk traces its roots to the massive Bethlehem Steel operation that once roared at nearby Sparrows Point, but leaders are recognizing that new economic drivers may start smaller.
Dundalk Renaissance began the efforts that led to The Forge by experimenting with pop-up shops. Starting in 2013, the organization formed partnerships with others like Blue Ocean Realty to provide space, Baltimore County Small Business Resource Center to help with business plan coaching and received funding from the Baltimore County Department of Planning. In all, five pop-up retail shops were held. A couple doors down, Little Crystal Bijoux ended up become a permanent resident, along with two other former pop-up proprietors.
There were also moves toward making a deeper impact when Dundalk Renaissance purchased the building at 11 Center Place in 2014 after renting for a decade. The $350,000 renovation project to create The Forge began in 2017. It was originally built in 1945, and needed considerable upgrades. The place-based thinking continued to guide the effort to create The Forge.
“There’s a geographical driver in that we’re trying to revitalize our Historic Dundalk Town Center…We’re looking to grow our business district,” said Menzer, who managed design and project management on the incubator.
The retail space available at The Forge is a sign that the retail learning of the pop-up experiment continues.
“Part of what we’re trying to do with the incubator is grow new retail stores or businesses,” Menzer said. The overall focus for the incubator’s impact is a geographic one, as the organization looks to stimulate economic development in the immediate area.
So along with jumpstarting those storefront shops, Menzer said the organization is open to welcoming all kinds of businesses.
“There could be other businesses like a photography studio, a company like a graphic design firm or a web company,” she said. “We’re really pretty open on what kinds of other businesses there might be.”
The space will also host workshops, with the first planned for Wednesday, October 17.
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