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Empire State Development Announces Start Of Construction For Welcome To Chinatown's Pioneering Small Business Hub

ESD Funding Supports Manhattan Chinatown’s First Small Business Incubator

One-Stop Hub for Entrepreneurs to Collaborate, Innovate, and Grow

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that Welcome to Chinatown, a nonprofit that fosters small business growth and community development, has begun construction of Manhattan Chinatown’s first-ever Small Business Innovation Hub at 115 Bowery Street. The $785,931 project will convert 2,500 square feet into a versatile and dynamic space designed to host an array of programs that will empower small businesses and serve as an event space focused on community growth. Supported by a $100,000 capital grant from Empire State Development, recommended by the New York City Regional Economic Development Council, the Hub will catalyze economic growth, celebrate cultural heritage, and support the vibrant tapestry of small businesses that form the heart of Chinatown's community. 

Empire State Development President CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, "The Small Business Innovation Hub marks a groundbreaking milestone as Chinatown's first dedicated space for small business support, empowering local entrepreneurs and strengthening the fabric of this vibrant community. ESD is proud to support Welcome to Chinatown’s visionary project, underscoring our commitment to nurturing small businesses as the backbone of thriving neighborhoods and paving the way for a more resilient economic future in Chinatown."

The Small Business Innovation Hub will provide a centralized space for entrepreneurs to access resources, connect with peers, and showcase their ventures, playing a vital role in supporting the growth and resilience of Chinatown's business community. The four-month construction will unfold in multiple phases, starting with the removal of non-load bearing walls and outdated infrastructure to open up the space and incorporate ADA compliant features. The next phase will focus on finishing elements such as lighting, acoustics, flooring, and modular divider walls to accommodate diverse programming. 

Welcome to Chinatown CEO & Co-Founder Victoria Lee said, “We are profoundly excited to begin construction on our Small Business Innovation Hub. Once completed, The Hub will be a first of its kind gathering place to empower small business owners, build bridges, and champion sustainable and vibrant growth in Manhattan Chinatown. Chinatown's legacy has been built on the backbone of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Despite that, the community lacks vital spaces to foster economic growth. It is critical that we both invest in the continued success of our community and develop the next generation of small businesses. We are deeply thankful for ESD's commitment to our vision of ensuring Chinatown’s vibrant legacy and economic prosperity for generations to come.”

When complete, the Hub will feature a versatile main room with a sliding curtain system for hosting various events, a lounge area for informal gatherings, two tech-equipped meeting rooms for collaboration and workshops, private booths for one-on-one conversations, and a catering area to support community events. This multi-functional space will enable the Hub to offer a wide range of programs, such as accelerator courses, technical training, and networking events. The "Artist Alley" gallery space will celebrate AAPI creativity and visual storytelling, while the Meet Chinatown digital directory will guide visitors and encourage meaningful exploration of the neighborhood. With construction slated for completion in Summer 2024 and full operational capacity anticipated by Fall 2024, the Hub is poised to become a transformative force in Chinatown's economic and cultural landscape.

Senator Brian Kavanagh said, “The announcement that Welcome to Chinatown has begun construction on its Small Business Innovation Hub at 115 Bowery is great news for Chinatown. Small businesses in Chinatown, many of which were disproportionately impacted by the effects of Covid-19, will soon have a place they can gather to obtain and provide resources, develop partnerships, and share best practices. This innovative space is a testament to our commitment to empower small business owners, foster collaboration, and drive sustainable growth in Chinatown. I am especially pleased that my office was able to provide capital funding towards the renovation of this remarkable space, further bolstering the incredible work being done here. I am confident that this new hub will help unleash the boundless potential of this community’s small businesses, and unite all of us around a vision for a vibrant and thriving Chinatown.”

Assemblymember Grace Lee said, “Empire State Development’s investment towards the creation of Chinatown's inaugural small business hub is recognition of this historic Asian American neighborhood and the small businesses that are integral to the community. Welcome to Chinatown’s Small Business Innovation Hub will be an invaluable resource for business owners, supporting the growth and resilience of their small businesses. I eagerly anticipate its opening in the coming months.”

New York City Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, City University of New York Chancellor, said, "The NYCREDC is thrilled to support Welcome to Chinatown's Small Business Innovation Hub, a groundbreaking facility that will bolster the entrepreneurial spirit and strengthen the neighborhood’s deep-rooted sense of community. By addressing the critical needs of entrepreneurs and providing them with the resources to thrive, this initiative will catalyze economic growth, foster resilience, and ensure that Chinatown's ingenuity continues to shape its prosperity for generations to come."

The establishment of Chinatown's first Small Business Innovation Hub addresses a critical gap in the neighborhood's ecosystem by providing a dedicated space designed to empower small businesses to overcome barriers to growth. ESD recognizes the vital role these enterprises play in driving local economies and preserving the unique character of communities. By supporting projects like Welcome to Chinatown’s Small Business Innovation Hub, ESD underscores the importance of fostering community-centric growth and innovation statewide, enhancing the overall economic health and vibrancy of New York State’s diverse communities.

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency. The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of "I LOVE NY," the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit regionalcouncils.ny.gov and esd.ny.gov.

About Welcome to Chinatown

Welcome to Chinatown is a non-profit organization amplifying and addressing the critical needs of our community and its entrepreneurs. Together, we will keep Chinatown open for generations to come.

Contact: Emily Mijatovic | [email protected] | (212) 803-3692