The city of Hartford announced a new program Thursday designed to bring businesses back to vacant storefronts across the capital city.
The program, called "Hart Lift," comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic when a number of businesses closed because of financial challenges. Hart Lift will use $6 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, according the city, and is aimed at businesses in downtown and key neighborhood commercial areas.
“A lot of commercial property owners have been hit hard the last couple of years, but we've also heard from more and more small businesses and restauranteurs that want to lease space but just need a little extra help to do it, and we're thrilled to have this chance to help make that happen," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.
Property owners with vacant storefronts can receive grants of $50 per square foot for a maximum of $150,000, the city announced in a press release.
According to the program rules, the grants have to be matched 100% by landlord or tenant investments in downtown Hartford or 50% in neighborhood areas in order to qualify.
Chelsey Mancini a property owner with CAPLAW Properties said her business was impacted dramatically as a result of the pandemic.
"“You’re not getting foot traffic from people going to work Monday through Friday so you lose out on a lot of clientele," Mancini said.
Mancini said having the money to help fix up the interior and exterior of spaces will be a selling point for future tenants.
"A lot of the spaces we looked at had been vacant for several years and need a significant amount of work," said Alex Pilon of Bloom Bake Shop. "It’s a lot of overhead cost to jump into starting a restaurant."
Pilon said Bloom Bake Shop has outgrown its current space and they are ready to move but most places just are not move-in ready. The hope is this funding will ease that challenge.
The city's Chamber of Commerce will oversee the program.
“I am confident that this program will help spur economic growth in all our neighborhoods and provide much needed resources to property owners and small businesses," said Hartford Chamber of Commerce Chair Max Kothari.
Owners must have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and have available ground-floor retail space, the city said.
"I think this is a really important opportunity to turn the challenges of the last year into a chance," Bronin said.
More information for owners is available at the program's website.