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Englewood Tech Hub Aims to Fight Unemployment, Empower South Siders

By Wendell Hutson | September 9, 2014 5:25am
 In 2013, Blue 1647 opened this technology center in Pilsen.
In 2013, Blue 1647 opened this technology center in Pilsen.
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ENGLEWOOD — Two nonprofit organizations want to make technology training more accessible to South Side students while also providing work space for startup companies.

The Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation and Blue 1647 in Pilsen will run Blue 1647 Englewood, a 20,000-square-foot tech center that's set to open in mid-2015, according to Glen Fulton, executive director and president of the greater Englewood organization.

Fulton did not give an exact location for the center, but he said it would be on South Halsted Street near Kennedy-King College and where a Whole Foods store is being built at 63rd and Halsted streets.

"This space will allow for startups looking to reduce cost to have a place to work," Fulton said.

 Next year, a new technology center in Englewood will open and include classrooms for students.
Next year, a new technology center in Englewood will open and include classrooms for students.
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Flickr

The incubator also will include a workforce development program for students to learn about apps and website development. This summer, young people from the nonprofit Teamwork Englewood used space at Blue 1647 to redesign the website for Kusanya Cafe, said Emile Cambry, CEO of Blue 1647.

"It took students from Englewood about 45 minutes to travel by public transportation to our Pilsen center," Cambry said. "That's when I got to thinking how much more convenient it would have been if there was a tech center in Englewood, a community we want to have a greater presence in."

Cambry said once the building is bought or leased, it will need renovation before opening. Funding will come from supporters and donations, he said.

"I couldn't give you an exact figure just yet as to how much it will cost to renovate the space. I am getting estimates as we speak," Cambry said.

Upon completion, Fulton said the incubator will have a 20,000-square-foot commercial kitchen, and it plans to form a partnership with the Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute at Kennedy-King.

"We definitely want to make sure Kennedy-King students have an opportunity to use this facility, especially the kitchen," Fulton said. "I anticipate 300 people per day using the tech center, and students will be among them."

There now are 57 startups using Blue 1647 tech center in Pilsen, Cambry said.

The new tech center would operate much like a banquet hall for rent, where entrepreneurs could work for a few hours or long term and have access to computers, fax machines and other equipment.

Fulton said he wants to change the reputation that Englewood is not a technology-friendly neighborhood, and hopes the center will also change perceptions about crime in the area.

"I want to help change that perception about Englewood. Hopefully with this new incubator space, more facilities like it will start popping up on the South Side," Fulton said.

Fulton said 85 percent of the people in Englewood between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed, and the center could change that.

"Once the center shows growth and success among its users, more jobs will follow, and that's what Englewood needs the most," Fulton said.

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