Arsenal Place turning Hutchings Building into innovation center

Published 10:58 pm Saturday, July 9, 2016

Arsenal Place Accelerator is renovating the Hutchins building, located at 22 Church Street.--Daniel Evans

Arsenal Place Accelerator is renovating the Hutchings building, located at 22 Church Street.–Daniel Evans

Arsenal Place Accelerator is working on a project that would bring a commercial kitchen to Selma’s arts and entertainment district.

Aresenal Place acquired the Hutchings building, located at 22 Church Street, in March and is in the midst of a $750,000 project to transform it into an entrepreneurship and innovation center for the Black Belt.

“We already have some schematic designs,” said Dane Shaw, president of the board for Arsenal Place. “We are working on funding right now.”

The Hutchings building is about 13,000 square foot. Shaw said it was used to park and service cars for fighter pilots training at Craig Air Force Base, but it has remained vacant for many years.  An old car elevator is even still in the building.

Shaw said the business incubator will build a 300-500 square foot commercial kitchen on the bottom floor of the building, so that food-related entrepreneurs within Selma and Dallas County will have a place to work. In order to make sure it’s designed correctly, Arsenal Place will seek the help of chefs, Shaw said.

“We know in order for them to develop their products, perfect their products, invent products that there needs to be some form of a commercial kitchen that they can come work in,” Shaw said.

In the future, Arsenal Place hopes to host cooking workshops at the kitchen. Shaw said he envisions a professional chef teaching a class how to make a meal and also serving dinner.

The building will also include a venue space of 350-400 people, which could be used for concerts, music festivals and other special events.

The upstairs portion will include a workspace area for entrepreneurs, Shaw said.

A group of football players from Wheaton College spent 10 days in Selma during the spring helping clean out the building.

Shaw said they loaded six construction dumpsters full of old car parts and other types of trash.

The project has no official timeline, but Shaw hopes it is open by August 2017.

“It’s going to get a lot of use,” Shaw said. “We don’t want a building that is going to sit empty most of the week. We want a building that is going to be used every single day.”

Shaw said Arsenal Place Accelerator is still in the midst of gathering some of the funding needed to complete the building’s renovation.