The city of Hartford says it remains committed to securing a supermarket for the downtown area, after a plan for a grocery store collapsed this week because a minor league ballpark may be built nearby.
“We all want to see the market,” Thomas E. Deller, the city’s director of development services, told leaders of the city’s neighborhood revitalization zones Thursday night. “It’s important for us to get a supermarket downtown and, if possible, in Downtown North. We would really like that to happen.”
After nearly two years of work, the Hartford Community Loan Fund this week pulled the plug on its plans for a full-service supermarket that would have been part of a larger, mixed-use development at 1212 Main St., sometimes referred to as “12B.”
Both the ballpark and the supermarket targeted Downtown North, or “DoNo,” a barren, redevelopment area just north of downtown Hartford.
The loan fund, a community revitalization organization, had strong interest from the operator of a ShopRite for the site. The operator, Paul Tornaquindici, did not believe the ballpark, proposed next door, at 1214 Main St., would be compatible with the store, Fowler said.
Deller told the NRZ leaders at their monthly meeting Thursday that there were still many unanswered questions about the loan fund’s plan.
“The proposal for 12B, 1212 Main St., [is] one that has been out there a while,” Deller said. “There hadn’t been a clear developer for the site. There hadn’t been a clear proposal for the site and clear economics to show the operator could actually rent the site and operate a market there.”
On Friday, Rex Fowler, the loan fund’s executive director, defended the loan fund’s work on the project, saying it did not come to the table unprepared.
Fowler said the loan fund:
- Completed a detailed market study confirming the economic viability of such a full-service supermarket for the Downtown North redevelopment area
- Identified an experienced market operator with a strong commitment to serving all members of the Hartford community.
- Identified of a highly qualified, experienced community developer with strong access to capital, experience with similar projects across the country, and interest in a role in implementation of the Downtown North Master Plan as completed by the City in December, 2013.
- Identified local and national sources of financing for the project.
“HCLF is proud of the work that our staff and our partners have contributed to this project,” Fowler said.
The supermarket, as envisioned by the loan fund, would have served both downtown and the city’s North End neighborhoods. Downtown North was an ideal location because it was in the middle of a “food desert” with few options for purchasing groceries.
Deller said he believes a ballpark and a supermarket can thrive side-by-side. He cited calls from developers since the announcement of the ballpark proposal two weeks ago, some saying the area would work well for a supermarket.
Deller also said a supermarket opened near the Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., next where housing is being built. Housing also is a major, planned component for Downtown North.
“The reason why I bring this up is to show that they are not mutually exclusive,” Deller said. “They can work together. They can operate together.”
Fowler said he believes Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra and city council members are committed to taking steps to ease the food desert that affects a quarter of city residents and, to improve access to healthy and affordable foods.
“We continue to be eager to assist our City leaders in their efforts toward this objective in any way possible,” Fowler said.