Sibling duo behind Row House Cinema and Bierport are turning an old elementary school into a creative incubator

Sibling duo behind Row House Cinema and Bierport are turning an old elementary school into a creative incubator
click to enlarge Brian and Irwin Mendelssohn - PHOTOS: WATERSHED COMMUNICATIONS
  • Photos: Watershed Communications
  • Brian and Irwin Mendelssohn

A former elementary school will soon be home to aspiring artists, chefs, and creators. 

Brian and Irwin Mendelssohn, the sibling duo behind Row House Cinema and Bierport, are transforming a vacant Manchester school into Fulton Commons, a space that when finished will hold a kitchen incubator, coworking spaces, and art studio. The brothers recently announced the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the business incubator and equip the building’s commercial kitchen.

The 18,000 square foot space will rent out communal workspaces, personal desks, and offices. For artists, there is a partitioned area flooded with Northern light. The kitchen boasts space for 30 different companies, with a food photography studio and special services for food truck startups. 

Rent varies for each of the spaces, ranging from $125 to $700 a month. Compared to coworking buildings in the city, rates for unlimited access to communal workspaces ($125 per month) are modest. Renting a personal desk, ($175), is a great, affordable option for small-team startups.

Kitchen access is the most expensive option, but also includes business guidance (coming from the owners of two successful, homegrown businesses), and use of all commercial equipment. 

This shared kitchen model is not unlike others in the city. For instance, last year brought The Bakery Society, an education, business-building kitchen, and storefront for up-and-coming bakers, to Mount Oliver; Community Kitchen Pittsburgh in Homestead offers culinary training and food education programs to “change lives and strengthen communities.”

Inside, the commons will be divided into sections — what the founders refer to as neighborhoods — each designed to have a unique feel. Instead of corporate, the brothers call the commons “non-conformist.” They’re keeping the elementary school’s historic feel while transforming the neighborhoods into spaces inspired by Wes Anderson and 1920s Miami. One section will reflect the space’s original, 1940s design. 

Fulton Commons offers more than just a space to work; the founders emphasize a sense of community. Members of the business incubator will have access to workshops, social events, and more.  

“We want to be a regional hub for creatives, makers, and entrepreneurs of all kinds,” write the brothers on their crowdfunding campaign. To Brian and Irwin, the Fulton Commons is a place to “take risks and grow,” in a community that feels like home. 

In tandem with the launch of Fulton Commons, Brian and Irwin are planning to institute a scholarship opportunity that gives priority to minority and women-owned businesses. 

In the next month, the brothers are hoping to raise $17,500 from their Kickstarter campaign. If all goes to plan, Fulton Commons will be open by the Fall of 2019.