Downtown Hartford begins revitalization with business opening

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“We want to activate all the vacant retail space we can, but there’s enormous power in a focused effort,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said.

HARTFORD, Connecticut – On Friday afternoon, Hartford city leaders and community members gathered for the grand opening of Bloom Bake Shop.

“I’ve been here before for their soft opening to get scones and I’m back for the grand opening today to get more scones,” said Hartford resident Lauren Escott.

RELATED: Hartford Bakery That Started During COVID Expands Storefront

Friday’s grand opening wasn’t just about baked goods, coffee, or flowers.

“We want to activate all the vacant retail space we can, but there’s enormous power in a focused effort,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said.

This concentrated effort is an initiative called the HartLift program, administered by the city and chamber of commerce to bring new small businesses to spaces previously inactive due to the pandemic.

“It really was a perfect timing situation for us,” Bloom co-owner Alex Pilon said.

Sisters Alex and Monica opened their bakery two years ago, relying on a grant from the HartLift program to help them open their physical store.

“It’s always difficult to open a small business,” Bronin said. “It’s always an act of courage, an act of faith and it’s putting your money on the line.”

RELATED: Hartford’s Pratt Street to See More Businesses Open Through Chamber of Commerce Grant Scheme

Bronin said Bloom is the perfect example of this public-private partnership, and their grand opening marks the first time in decades that every Pratt Street storefront is under contract or in negotiation.

He said that in the next six months to a year, almost all new businesses will be filled.

“It’s a community of small businesses and creators that grows stronger every day,” Bronin continued.

The HartLift program is funded by federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

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Bronin said the city committed about $4.7 million.

When asked if the city plans to continue this program with other funds once the ARPA money runs out, Bronin said they’ll have to wait and see.

For community members watching downtown Hartford come back to life, they hope the city will continue to invest in local businesses.

“Being able to support these same people who make our community feel so warm is so rewarding,” said Elaina Giordano, events and social media coordinator for Pratt Street.

Emma Wulfhorst is a political reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.

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