This was supposed to be about finding the next up and coming neighborhood, about how restaurants and coffee shops are an indicator of cool projects to come, but as we were doing some research, we stumbled upon a great story.
In Dallas, Texas, a non-profit restaurant called Café Momentum, has shown what happens when a place commits to a community. Much more than a restaurant, Café Momentum is a culinary training facility for at-risk youth who have spent time in a Dallas juvenile facility. It landed in a pre-gentrified neighborhood, not for the cheap rent price, but in order to transform the neighborhood by ending cyclical violence, crime, and incarceration.
The menu isn’t simple: chicken liver mousse, smoked carrot soup, octopus tiradito. (I don’t even know what that is! (I looked it up: it’s a Peruvian dish of raw fish cut in the shape of sashimi…?!) (Sashimi: a Japanese delicacy consisting of very fresh raw fish sliced into thin pieces.)) The grilled shrimp, hand-torn pasta, watercress pistou, cream parm, and prosciutto dish sounds like it belongs in a museum, but founder Chad Houser trusts his interns in the twelve-month program to deliver a professional product.
The best part about this restaurant is that it’s working. Houser says, “The recidivism rate for juvenile offenders in the state of Texas is 47% , which means that when a kid walks out of jail you can flip a coin to determine whether or not they will be back within a year. If they go back a second time, you could almost guarantee they’ll spend the rest of their life going in and out.” In the three years the program has been running, 160 kids have gone through with a recidivism rate of 11%.
Popping up in the same area a few years later, are the new, hip restaurants you’d expect to see, alongside this really trendy, small, indy, coffee shop called Starbucks. (Just kidding.) Café Momentum is a great model of how business can actually help the people who would possibly be displaced by new, expensive developments.
So this begs the question: what’s to stop this model from working in another industry? Can it work in construction? Development? We’re very interested in constructing buildings that are beautiful, efficient, and environmentally friendly – what about people-friendly? Is there room for this kind of education and mentorship for local young adults in our section of the world? If your organization is doing something like this, we’d love to hear about it.