The city of Hartford is now accepting proposals for a downtown project that aims to transform vacant downtown storefronts into retail or pop-up stores, a broadcast studio or an artist exhibition.
The goal of the project, iConnect, is to establish businesses for a trial, eight-month period, in hopes that they will be successful enough to remain open permanently. The shop owners chosen for the program would qualify for free or reduced rent, plus a subsidy for utility bills.
Kristina Newman-Scott, the city’s director of marketing, events and cultural affairs, told me today that the city intends for the first of seven spaces to be occupied by early spring.
Downtown has struggled with retail vacancy in recent years. Filling storefronts adds to vibrancy and gives people more reasons to spend time downtown.
No storefront spaces have yet been signed for the project, but the city is targeting Pratt, Pearl, Main and Trumbull streets. The city is talking to landlords about offering free rent for the trial period and determining the extent of the utility subsidy.
Proposals are due by March 8. From the proposals, a city committee will choose the strongest candidates who will then enter a formal application process, Newman-Scott said.
iConnect is being partly funded with a $100,000 grant from a state program working to draw more people into cities and towns through arts and cultural activities.
For more information, visit http://www.hartford.gov/iconnect-hartford.
Read more about the program here.