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Epicenter opens at Innovate ABQ

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Crowds of business and innovation supporters fill The Epicenter@Innovate ABQ for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the downtown space that was last used as a place too feed homeless people near Central Ave. and Broadway, in Albuquerque, N.M., Friday, April 24, 2015. The space will be used as a meeting space for educational and entrepreneurial programs and projects. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Anybody looking to turn a great idea into a business now has access to a Downtown center that offers resources, mentoring and opportunities to interact with other aspiring entrepreneurs.

The city of Albuquerque inaugurated its new Epicenter on Friday at the seven-acre First Baptist Church property at Broadway and Central, where the University of New Mexico is planning its new Innovate ABQ research and development site. The center — in a two-story, 13,500-square-foot building that previously housed Noon Day Ministries — will now operate as an open community space that offers programs and resources to promote entrepreneurship, said Gary Oppedahl, director of the city’s Economic Development Department.

“We want to surround people with hipsters, hucksters and hackers to help them turn their ideas into successful businesses,” Oppedahl told the Journal. “We’re extending the rungs of the economic ladder to anyone and everyone by providing a core place where people can connect and interact to share ideas and help one another.”

UNM has leased the space for free to the city, which invested $100,000 to clean, renovate, furnish, decorate and equip it with computers, broadband and other amenities, Mayor Richard Berry said at the inaugural ceremony. The Cinco Amigos philanthropic group donated $150,000, and other nonprofits and businesses kicked in money and resources as well, such as a $2,500 security system.

“This is the first exciting thing to actually open at the Innovate ABQ site,” Berry said. “It will be a gathering place, an education space and a place for entrepreneurs and all of us to lift each other up.”

A commercial kitchen will soon open in the building, where Central New Mexico Community College will operate a “culinary makerspace” to offer assistance and training to people interested in operating food trucks, food carts and catering businesses.

The Epicenter’s first official activity will take place on Wednesday and Thursday , when Microsoft offers a “DigiCamp” computer training workshop for students from Garfield and Hayes middle schools.

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