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MassChallenge to open innovation center in Newton

MassChallenge will establish an innovation center in the former Newton Corner Library building.
MassChallenge will establish an innovation center in the former Newton Corner Library building.

MassChallenge, considered one of the world’s largest startup accelerators, is partnering with the city of Newton to create an “innovation center” in the former Newton Corner Library building, the mayor’s office announced Tuesday.

Under a two-year licensing agreement with the city of Newton, the Boston-based startup accelerator will use the building at 124 Vernon St. that had been headquarters for the Newton Parks and Recreation Department, city officials said.

“The innovation sector is one of the major engines for sustainable jobs and opportunity for all workers in the 21st Century,” Mayor Setti Warren said in a press release. “This is a tremendous opportunity to work with MassChallenge to encourage entrepreneurship in Newton while also opening up access to the innovation economy to Newton residents of all backgrounds.”

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MassChallenge has also agreed to host interns from the mayor’s summer high school internship program and to conduct workshops for both students and other community groups on business practices, some in conjunction with the Newton Free Library, according to the release.

“Mayor Warren and Newton are offering an excellent opportunity to help inspire and support more entrepreneurs,” said Scott Bailey, Managing Director of MassChallenge Boston. “By engaging with the Newton community, we hope to forge more connections and help entrepreneurs launch and grow.”

MassChallenge will design programming for entrepreneurs as well as the community at large and will collaborate with Cambridge Innovation Center, the release said.

“As the innovation economy continues to expand beyond Boston and Cambridge, we’re thrilled that MassChallenge and the Cambridge Innovation Center recognized the value of setting up their first Massachusetts expansion in Newton,” said Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce. “Newton offers easy access to the Boston area but with our own unique amenities, access, affordability and talent.”

The agreement helps establish the N2 Innovation Corridor and the Charles River Mill District as destinations for the innovation economy, Reibman said. “It also brings focus to Newton Corner which is already home to a number of growing companies as well as a small restaurant and bar scene.”

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In a letter Tuesday to the Board of Aldermen, Warren said he had signed a two-year licensing agreement with MassChallenge for a two-year period beginning in August.

“The successes of MassChallenge in Boston and expansions internationally are legion, and I firmly believe opening a site in Newton will provide these same opportunities for our community,” he wrote. “I am also excited about the potential for attracting other businesses to Newton Corner.”

Warren had previously sought to have MassChallenge locate in the former branch library in Newton Centre. However, the mayor scrapped the plans after hearing opposition from several members of the Board of Aldermen.

The agreement with MassChallenge to use the former Newton Corner Library building needs no further approvals from city boards, said Dori Zaleznik, the mayor’s chief administrative officer.

“We have a number of branch libraries that we’ve licensed out to a variety of community groups,” she said. While there is a monthly fee to cover utilities and a portion of maintenance, the city will not charge rent.

Community groups that have been using the former library for some meetings outside the regular work day will continue to be welcome, Warren said. Most of the parks and recreation staff will move to the Kennard Estate on Dudley Road, while a few staff members and Nancy Hyde, the city’s economic development director, will have offices in the Newton Corner building.

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Leslie Anderson can be reached at leslie.anderson@globe.com.