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Tomorrow’s Visions Start Here

January 30, 2019
Fitchburg State senior Jules Stackhouse addresses the crowd Tuesday during the grand opening of FSU's video game design studio and entrepreneurship lab in the Theater Block on Main Street. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- After sitting vacant for nearly 40 years, Main Street’s Theater Block has found new life as a Fitchburg State University video game design studio and entrepreneurship lab that brings the school and community together.

“Part of what we’re doing here is to create an opportunity to convene different groups of people and to have opportunities to look at problems, share ideas and realize dreams,” said university President Richard Lapidus.

University and city officials, students and members of the community gathered Tuesday for a ribbon cutting of Phase One of renovations for the Theater Block -- the completed game design studio and ideaLab.

Lapidus said university faculty and students came up with the concept for the lab as a place off-campus to connect with the community and pursue interdisciplinary work.

The game design studio is where students can get real-world experience through internships and projects.

“This is really a place where I feel like I can get my ideas down,” said Jules Stackhouse, a senior studying game design.

He’s excited to come to the studio every day and for the opportunity the university has given him.

On the way to the ideaLab, attendees peered into the game design studio and saw about 20 students working behind computers on their projects.

By the end of the semester, Stackhouse hopes he and his classmates can show off their work.

He wants to work for a video game design company or develop his own game after graduation.

Fitchburg State purchased the Theater Block in 2016 and plans to renovate it in three phases.

The university is working with NewVue Communities on the Theater Block. Construction for Phase One of the $2.8 million project began in the fall of 2017.

Now that the second floor is complete, they can move toward renovating the first floor to put in storefronts and rehabilitate the theater.

Mayor Stephen DiNatale said Fitchburg State has been a good partner, especially for economic development downtown.

“Fitchburg does collaboration better than any other city I’ve encountered,” he said. “We really do.”

The Theater Block is among ongoing redevelopment projects in the city, which include the Fitchburg Arts Community and City Hall renovations.

State Rep. Stephan Hay said he is impressed by how much the city and university have grown over the years. He’s also looking forward to work that will come from the lab.

“I can’t wait to read The New York Times or watch CNN to see some idea from the Fitchburg State ideaLab germinated here,” Hay said. “So get to work.”

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz.

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