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Greentown Labs moving to new home in Somerville

Greentown Labs tenant Altaeros Energies is developing an airborne wind turbine.

Scott Kirsner

Greentown Labs tenant Altaeros Energies is developing an airborne wind turbine.

A facility that once produced file folders and envelopes is getting a green makeover.

The former Ames Safety Envelope plant between Union Square and Harvard Square will become the new home of Greentown Labs, one of the country’s biggest private incubators for energy-related start-ups. Greentown will host an event at the new location Thursday with state and local officials and hopes to move in next month.

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The relocation is unusual in that Greentown is pulling a reverse migration of sorts, from Boston’s Innovation District, which is experiencing a rapid influx of technology and related businesses. But Greentown cofounder Jason Hanna said the kind of space his organization needs, industrial-style space with high ceilings and loading docks, is getting harder to find in Boston.

Indeed the company’s current building in Fort Point Channel is being renovated by its new owners into office space.

The new digs will more than double the amount of “prototyping space” Greentown provides, Hanna said.

It currently rents space to 28 different start-ups, consulting firms, and nonprofits, and with the added new space should be able to accommodate the 10 organizations on its waiting list.

The City of Somerville is providing a $300,000 working capital loan to Greentown, and the state’s Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is considering a $300,000 grant. Greentown is also hoping to raise an additional $30,000 to cover build-out costs using the funding site Indiegogo.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville said the Greentown relocation is an example of how his city is successfully luring innovative business operations. Moreover, the city loan stipulates Greentown must use its “best efforts to hire Somerville residents,” the mayor said, and at least 51 percent of new hires will have to meet low- or moderate-income standards.

The new location is adjacent to another shared space, Artisan’s Asylum, which rents cubicles to craftspeople and small-batch manufacturers, and offers courses such as oxy-acetylene welding and robot control systems.

Executive director Emily Reichert said Greentown may work together with Artisan’s Asylum and its “cool tools,” such as 3D printers and plasma cutters. “We’re still working out the details, but there are a ton of synergies,” she said.

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