It’s not news that Amazon has wildly transformed Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood since moving there in 2008. Once an industrial district, the area has become a cluster of office buildings, restaurants, coffee shops and more because of Amazon’s presence.
On Thursday, the e-commerce giant announced it was bringing five new eateries to the neighborhood, but this time the company is focusing on people outside of the company. In a partnership with the nonprofit FareStart, Amazon is donating more than 25,000 square feet of retail space and equipment to launch a foodservice apprenticeship program.
FareStart focuses on shifting people out of poverty and homelessness through job training and employment placement. With this latest venture, the organization is working to shift low-income foodservice employees into higher-paying jobs in the restaurant industry.
Amazon’s donation will go toward the creation of a full-service restaurant, three fast-casual eateries and a coffee shop in South Lake Union. The restaurants will be operated by FareStart, which will use Amazon’s donation to train workers as line cooks, line leads, sous chefs, supervisors and managers.
FareStart CEO Megan Karch said the opportunity couldn’t come at a better time.
“Poverty and income inequality are growing in Seattle,” Karch said in a news release. “Meanwhile, the food service industry is experiencing a shortage of chefs and other staff in higher wage positions. Amazon’s generous support will help us train more people to fill those vacant positions.”
Amazon has long been blamed for some of Seattle’s biggest problems — income inequality and the lack of affordable housing to name a few. And this partnership is representative of a bigger shift in the company toward more philanthropic work.
John Schoettler, Amazon’s global real estate director, said in a blog post that the company has been a long-time supporter of FareStart. A spokeswomen for the nonprofit, Stephanie Schoo, said Amazon has provided some level of support for FareStart in recent years, but this is their first time partnering on such a large project.
“At Amazon, we ‘think big’ on behalf of our customers,” Schoettler wrote in his post. “Our FareStart neighbors ‘think big’ on behalf of their students, and that is why I am excited the donation we just announced, of additional space for FareStart, will give them the opportunity to think even bigger.”
The eateries are expected to open by the end of summer and will be open to the public. FareStart is also opening a catering venture and several classrooms with the Amazon donation.