HARTFORD —— The city has narrowed its pool of applicants to four or five for a project that aims to transform vacant downtown storefronts into retail or pop-up stores.
Kristina Newman-Scott, the city's director of marketing, events and cultural affairs, said Friday that officials are working to firm up contracts with the businesses chosen to occupy the storefronts. The city will announce the names of those companies early next week.
Hartford received more than 40 applications for iConnect, a program that seeks to establish businesses for an eight-month trial 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.
In addition to the four or five businesses selected, Newman-Scott said, the city is looking to create a marketplace that would fill a space on Trumbull Street. The marketplace, similar to a flea market or art fair, would feature as many as 30 merchants, she said, and different merchants would rotate in and out.
The city is also looking to bring live broadcasts of WNPR's "Where We Live" and "The Colin McEnroe Show" downtown. Newman-Scott said officials have reached an agreement with WNPR, but a remote studio location has not been finalized.
iConnect is partly funded by a $100,000 grant from a state program working to draw more people into cities and towns through arts and cultural activities. The city is contributing $65,000 toward the effort as part of its federal grant matching program.
A similar initiative, 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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