The Arlington City Council recently approved a 10-year lease agreement to bring the nonprofit Taste Project‘s pay-what-you-can community restaurant concept to the heart of Downtown Arlington. Amon G. Carter Foundation has provided funding for the project.
Taste Project, an organization designed to help feed, educate and serve Tarrant County’s food insecure residents, opened its first Taste Community Restaurant in Fort Worth in 2017. Since then, it has served more than 125,000 diners. The nonprofit is now working to open a second location on Cooper Street, just north of The University of Texas at Arlington, by early 2024.
Taste Project plans to renovate the building for its new location, which was formerly used by the Water Utilities Department and the Arlington Public Library. It will be transformed into a 3,000 square-foot, 100-plus seat full-service restaurant that includes a 1,500 square-foot production kitchen, culinary classroom and headquarter office.
Taste Project received a $100,000 lead gift from the Amon G. Carter Foundation to begin transforming the industrial building. Project costs are estimated between $1.2 million and $1.5 million.
“The Carter Foundation remains aware of the significant issue in regard to food insecurity and commends Taste Project’s commitment to feeding, educating, and serving Tarrant County residents,” says John Robinson, executive vice president at the Amon G. Carter Foundation. “Based on Taste Project’s success at its Fort Worth location, we applaud the organization’s achievement in securing a significant commitment from the City of Arlington.”
The future Arlington restaurant will offer meals made from local seasonal ingredients. Diners are asked to pay what they can afford, pay what they would typically pay, or pay what they would typically pay plus a little extra to help a neighbor in need.
Additionally, Taste Project will offer its farm and garden program and its culinary job training programs that will provide paid work experience for low-income adults and adults with barriers to employment.
“I have always known God’s plans for Taste Project are bigger than Fort Worth,” said Jeff Williams, founder and executive director of Taste Project. “We could not have asked for a more perfect partner than the City of Arlington to feed, educate, and serve even more people in our community.”
Addressing food insecurity for Arlington residents is a top priority. According to the 2020-2024 HUD Consolidated Plan for the City of Arlington, low and moderate-income individuals and households typically do not have regular access to healthy food because they lack adequate transportation and affordable healthy food choices.
The future Arlington restaurant is located within walking distance of UTA, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, and numerous Downtown homes and businesses. The location is also easily accessible through Arlington’s affordable citywide on-demand public transportation service, Via Rideshare.
“We are excited to partner with Taste Project to ensure good food for everyone,” said Mayor Jim Ross. “The organization’s unique approach to helping those in need, while building community, makes it a great fit for the City of Arlington.”
Taste Project offers culinary training programs where its graduates receive job placement at $15 an hour on average. According to the Department of Labor, entry level food service positions, typically in fast food, start between minimum wage and $11 per hour. But adults with certified training can obtain living wage positions in full-service and fine dining restaurants, and production kitchens—which is an expanding marketplace and a growing need for Arlington businesses, Taste Project leaders say.
Taste Project enlisted Coeval Studio based in Dallas to design and layout the building renovations for its 200 N. Cooper Street location. Lead designers Miguel Vicens and Joh Paul Valverde completed the design work for Taste Project’s Fort Worth location and the duo will look to create the same warm and inviting atmosphere in Arlington.
Taste Project’s agreement with the City of Arlington includes two five-year options to renew.