An old horse barn in the Belmont neighborhood will soon be home to a 36,000-square-foot mixed-use space dedicated to making Charlotte a more sustainable city. With an expansive outdoor area, a craft beer bar, and aquaponic gardens, the Innovation Barn is set to open by the end of 2020.
The Innovation Barn is an ambitious project between the nonprofit Envision Charlotte and the City of Charlotte. The space, located just outside of Uptown on Seigle Avenue, will be an educational center for recycling and other sustainability initiatives, a hub of environmental innovation, and a gathering space for Charlotteans (whether you recycle properly or not, no judgement).
Amy Aussieker, executive director of Envision Charlotte, has awaited the Innovation Barn’s opening for years. Planning, funding, and the build-out of the space have taken longer than anticipated; the Innovation Barn was initially supposed to open in the fall of 2019.
The project is funded in part from the city and in part from private partners such as Coca-Cola Consolidated and Electrolux.
Coronavirus innovation: While not open to the public, a portion of the facility is already in use. In the middle of a construction zone, Aussieker and her team are recycling No. 5 plastic — a.k.a. takeout containers — into filament that can then be used in 3-D printers for items like face shields. It’s a circular economy built out of necessity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Aussieker is aiming to open the Innovation Barn to the public by the end of 2020. Here’s what to expect once it opens:
Craft beer bar: Denise Abood, also of Tanks Tap inside 7th Street Public Market, is behind the craft beer bar called Hops Central going into the Innovation Barn. It’ll have 18 taps, including local craft beer and Prosecco. There will also be coffee.
“We really wanted to bring in beer and coffee so that there’s things for people to do, sit outside, and experience zero-waste, even if they don’t care about recycling,” says Aussieker.
Food: While the Innovation Barn won’t have a full restaurant, it will have a rotating menu, including a DIY s’mores kit and the occasional fish fry. All food will come from the Innovation Barn’s teaching kitchen, which will also host cooking classes.
Outdoor space: The bulk of the gathering space at the Innovation Barn will be outside with firepits (for the s’mores), picnic tables, and public art.
Public art: One mural by Duarte Designs (pictured above) is already complete. The mural is about honoring Mother Earth, artist Sydney Duarte says. “With everything that has been going on in the world, we wanted to paint a message of hope and positivity.”
Innovative spaces: The main feature of the Innovation Barn is more behind-the-scenes, and that’s its space for local businesses and nonprofits. The purpose is to help build a more sustainable Charlotte, through initiatives like Crown Town Composting.
“She has more ideas than she knows what to do with,” says Abood, who’s also a longtime friend of Aussieker’s. “A lot of which comes to reality.”