All the Stores on Hartford’s Pratt Street are Filled for the First Time in Decades. Here’s Why.
Ted Glanzer
Sep 8, 2022

Hartford — For the first time in decades, all of the storefronts on Pratt Street are occupied, thanks in no small part to a program that uses American Rescue Plan funds to revitalize key commercial corridors in the city.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Mayor Luke Bronin, and state Rep. Julio Concepcion on Monday toured Pratt Street businesses — including a liquor store that moved across the street for more space, a new bakery, a soon-to-open vintage clothing shop, and a bar/lounge now in the works — that have used some of the $6 million the city set aside for the Hart Lift grant program — administered through the Chamber of Commerce — to assist with bringing vibrancy back to downtown Hartford following the devastating effects of the pandemic.

“The Hart Lift partnership has been incredibly successful in attracting private investment, with dozens of small businesses planning to open new shops and restaurants in vacant storefronts around Hartford,” Bronin said. “On Pratt Street, in particular, you can see the effect of the Hart Lift partnership just walking down the street, with storefront after storefront under construction and a diverse range of retail shops and restaurants getting ready to open – in some cases, filling storefronts that have been vacant for decades. That’s exactly what we hoped the Hart Lift partnership would do, and it’s exceeded our expectations.”

Murphy spent about an hour on Pratt Street quizzing owners and managers of establishments such as Bloom Bake Shop, which has its grand opening Friday; Capital Spirits, which moved from its old store of seven years across the street to a new location with a much larger floor space; the Hartford Flavor Cocktail Parlor, which is expected to open in the coming months; and Gentle Bull Shop, a 400-square-foot vintage clothing and home decor store that is also expected to open soon.

Capital Spirits co-owner Rishi Sachdeva meets with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy during his tour of the stores on Pratt Street in downtown Hartford. Sachdeva is one of the participants of Hartford’s Hart Lift Program. (Douglas Hook)

Jane Yon, manager of Sunberry at 65 Pratt St., said her business will use $150,000 in Hart Lift funds to build a bar and renovate the space to “go for an Asian forest” look.

She hopes the project will be completed in three months.

Across the street at 54 Pratt St., Tom and Lelaneia Dubay, owners of Hartford Flavor Co., discussed their plans to open Hartford Flavor Cocktail Parlor, which is going for a 1930s vibe.

Lelaneia Dubay said she and Tom had been looking for a way of expanding their business by opening a large space for a “destination distillery” with a cocktail lounge.

“We had about three buildings fall through,” Lelaneia Dubay said. “When we heard about the Hart Lift program we decided to divide the idea and have a flagship restaurant-themed, cocktail bar downtown.”

The couple is still actively looking for a space for the distillery.

The owners of Bloom Bake Shop at 80 Pratt St., said they were looking into moving away from their original location at the Swift Factory to a suburb. The Hart Lift program kept the business in Hartford, they said, and in a new space that had laid fallow for over a decade.

Murphy lauded Bronin for the use of ARPA dollars in a creative way to spark growth in Hartford’s retail spaces.

“The mayor has been really smart to use the rescue dollars in a way that brings short-term stability and long-term growth to the city,” Murphy said. “None of this money is for free. Landlords and tenants have to put up significant dollars side by side with federal money. The proof is right in front of your eyes. I can’t remember the last time every retail space on Pratt Street was leased. I can’t remember a time when restaurants and bars were opening rather than closing downtown.”

Grant funding is available to property owners who are up to date on their taxes and have vacant or unleashed ground-floor retail space, with an existing tenant with a lease of at least three years; and have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parameters of the grants are the following:

  • Grants provided can only be used for buildout costs of new or existing ground floor spaces in Hartford.
  • Property owners with vacant storefronts are eligible for a grant of $50 per square foot, up to $150,000.
  • Any grant awarded to property owners in the designated downtown area must be matched at 100% by the owner of the property, the proprietor, or a combination of both parties.
  • Grants received by property owners outside of the downtown area must be matched at 50% by the owner of the property, the proprietor, or a combination of both parties.
  • Property owners with multiple vacant storefronts can apply for a grant for each empty property.

Concepcion said Pratt Street has 10 new tenants that have either opened or are renovating storefronts, and more than 40 overall in the city, thanks to the program.

Murphy, who recently moved with his family to Hartford, said he’s excited on a personal level about the benefits of the Hart Lift program.

”This redevelopment is personal to me because I’m excited about being a customer of a lot of these new operations that are opening up,” he said.

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