The city was awarded a $100,000 grant from the state to transform vacant downtown storefronts into “creative destinations,” such as retail or pop-up stores, a remote broadcast studio or an artist exhibition.
The grant is part of the state’s Arts Catalyze Placemaking Program, which invests in Connecticut’s arts-based infrastructure and cultural activities to ultimately draw more people to cities and towns.
The state received 29 applications for the program, which began this year, city officials said. Eleven cities and organizations were awarded grants.
Kristina Newman-Scott, director of the Hartford’s Marketing, Events and Cultural Affairs Division said city officials are eyeing several spaces to be converted into arts-based venues. The city is aiming to transform at least four storefronts, she said, with the first opening as early as May.
City officials are in talks for possible locations along Main Street, Pratt Street and Pearl Street, Newman-Scott said. She said she envisions one of the spaces as a co-op style store, where consumers can purchase things made by local artists, and another as a remote broadcast studio.
“Many people think you have to cluster things in one space, but I don’t agree,” Newman-Scott said Thursday. “In any vibrant city, you’re walking around. You don’t have to be on just one street. We’re so walkable. The whole point of our downtown efforts now is to encourage people to get out there and move, and walk the great city we have.”
Newman-Scott said the city had worked with WNPR in September to create a “pop-up” broadcast studio in a former bank space downtown, where radio hosts broadcast the shows Where We Live and The Colin McEnroe Show live. Having the radio station in that area — in a vacant space in State House Square — created a buzz, she said. The city is in talks with WNPR to do more live shows from Hartford’s downtown.
Mayor Pedro Segarra said Thursday that the grant would help increase foot traffic downtown.
“Last year, several small businesses opened at the Linden, Spotlight Theater opened on Front Street, [and] Infinity Music Hall and Capital Grille [are] on their way,” he said in a prepared statement. “I have no doubt that this creative utilization of space will inspire continued growth and promote more tourism in our city.”
A similar effort, called Project Storefronts, was started in New Haven in 2010. Since its inception, the project — which puts “pop-up” retailers or activities into vacant storefronts to see if they catch on or if the location works for another business — has launched at least two dozen businesses there.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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