Mayor Marty Walsh announced Friday that The Venture Café Foundation will operate the soon-to-be-opened Roxbury Innovation Center located in the revamped Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square. Further, SkyLab has been tapped to provide community-driven programming in the Innovation Center’s common areas.
The Roxbury Innovation Center is poised to be one of Walsh’s hallmark achievements and a representation of a campaign promise made good. In 2013, when vying to succeed the late Tom Menino, Walsh indicated that he wanted to turn Boston’s outer neighborhoods – including Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan – into hubs of tech and commerce not unlike the Innovation District.
Throughout his inaugural year in City Hall, Walsh’s administration has worked to piece together the Bolling Building in diverse fashion. It’ll be one of the sites of the public art installment “Block Quotes,” it’ll house the Boston Public Schools headquarters and it’ll provide a dextrous space for the more tech-minded.
“The Bruce C. Bolling Municipal will be a gathering place for Dudley Square’s growing innovation economy,” said Walsh in a statement. “Not only will it launch new businesses from the Roxbury Innovation Center to boost the local Roxbury economy, but it will strengthen the connections of the surrounding neighborhood to innovation and the opportunities it creates.”
The mayor also announced that through a partnership with the state government, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative will provide an additional $150,000 in grant funding to support the Innovation Center.
The Venture Café Foundation operates out of collaborative spaces, such as District Hall, and hosts community meet-ups in Kendall Square to catalyze entrepreneurial discussions and actions. This kind of experience will be crucial for the development of the Innovation Center, and subsequently the rejuvenation of Dudley Square.
According to the City of Boston, SkyLab foresees the likes of next-generation “hackathons, pitch contests, technology competitions” and more for the Innovation Center’s common areas. Networking and other traditional events will also be on tap.
Shared Bridgette Wallace, SkyLab co-principal, in a statement:
We are excited to be given this opportunity to program the innovation space in the Bruce Boiling Municipal building. The SkyLab will be a gateway for community residents, in partnership with advisors and mentors, to explore what it means to become an entrepreneur. They will be able to discover what steps are needed to bring that to fruition, taking a deep dive into what the risks and costs associated with starting a venture are – all to question how we might link urban innovators to the larger innovation community.
The Innovation Center will occupy the second floor of the Bolling Building and will open some time in early 2015. The initial lease spans five years, with the added option of renewing for another five.