Voters overwhelmingly approved the town’s sale of the Main Street School to the Hope & Main kitchen incubator group Monday, turning out in numbers not often seen during an all-day referendum at Warren Town Hall.
The vote was 413 to 37, a clear victory for the group that also saw one of the largest turnouts in recent memory at last month’s special Financial Town Meeting. The next step for Hope & Main founder Lisa Raiola is to finalize a loan arrangement with the United States Department of Agriculture, which has offered a $3 million loan to get the project off the ground. Once financing is in place, construction will likely start soon after; she has said she hopes to be in business by mid-2013.
“What an astounding victory!” she said after the votes were added up after 9 p.m. Monday. “Amazing!”
Ms. Raiola’s work to get Hope & Main off the ground has gone back nearly three years. The idea is to turn the old school into a comprehensive learning and production center where incubees, as renters or tenants are known, can produce and package their recipes — cookies, meats, almost anything food-related — while getting them ready for market. Ms. Raiola has said that Hope & Main’s facilities will give budding entrepreneurs a chance to get their feet wet, and establish themselves as small business owners. Incubees will pay rent to use the facilities, and that money will help the non-profit organization stay afloat.
At the same time, Ms. Raiola sees Hope & Main as a community resource, and plans to have regular events open to the public. There will be a weekly market where local vendors and food producers can sell their food, and the building will be open for public events as well.