A drought at downtown Hartford's Hartford 21 is nearly over: The first new commercial tenant in more than two years will open for business next week.
NewAlliance Bank will open its 3,500-square-foot office on the Trumbull Street side of the apartment, office and retail complex Monday, and a sign in the bank's signature orange and blue is already in place above the space.
The New Haven-based bank sees the location as a strong competitive perch as its seeks to bring its retail banking services to the city's central business district. But NewAlliance also hopes its presence will help jump-start commercial leasing that has languished at Hartford 21.
"We felt we could play a role in providing critical mass," said Mark Gibson, NewAlliance's chief marketing officer. "Part of being a good corporate citizen is being a catalyst."
On the floor above the branch, work continues on the new St. Joseph College School of Pharmacy. It is expected construction will be completed by early June, a spokesman for the college said Monday.
The progress is a bit of encouraging news for landlord Northland Investment Corp. Northland is facing foreclosure on two prominent downtown Hartford office towers — Metro Center and CityPlace II — and is behind in mortgage payments on a third, Goodwin Square.
Gibson declined to comment on construction costs, but estimates by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. put branch openings at up to $2 million.
Gibson said the modern architectural style of Hartford 21 with its metallic skin embodied the image NewAlliance wants to convey.
"It has a very fresh contemporary style, with bold angles," Gibson said. "It fits well with the bold, contemporary look that we've created in our environment."
The bank provided renderings Monday of what the space will look like, but you could get a better sense just walking by on Trumbull Street and looking in the front window.
There were plenty of orange and blue flourishes visible, as workers unpacked boxes and positioned partitions.
Near to the window is a "dwell zone" where customers can relax while they wait to meet with bankers. There's free Wi-Fi access, a flat-screen television that will be tuned to financial news and coffee.
Although the branch is NewAlliance's first downtown, it already has its wealth management business headquartered in the central business district. It also has a branch in the Parkville section. As of next week, NewAlliance will employ about 40 in the city.
Monday's opening isn't likely to end the bank's growth in Hartford.
"I would say you haven't seen the last of us," Gibson said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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