Business is Booming in Hartford - Part 1
Have you noticed all of the new businesses and improvements made to our downtown area in the past few years? Much of this can be tied back to an initiative kicked off in 2013 and expanded in 2015 which focused on downtown revitalization. It is exciting to see elements of the plan continuing to come to life year after year!
First, a little background on the downtown revitalization initiative. In 2013, the Downtown Business Improvement District contracted with UWM graduate students to produce the Downtown Revitalization Plan. This plan identified catalytic projects Hartford could undertake to spur economic growth in downtown Hartford. This effort led to deeper discussions in the community on how to capitalize and expand on the recommendations within the plan.
Completion of TWO "Bookend" Developments
Fast forward to July 2015, when the Hartford Area Development Corporation contracted with Vandewalle & Associates to complete a comprehensive study and actionable strategic plan for the community. Among the recommendations were identifying two North and South “bookend” locations ideal for redevelopment. These have come to fruition through the construction of the Cobblestone Hotel in 2018 and more recently, Rincon 225 Apartments. The hotel satisfied a need in the community for a business hotel and upscale dining option (Wissota Chophouse). Rincon 225 helps to fill the need for living options as Hartford’s population continues to climb year over year.
Restoring Historic Downtown Buildings
But the changes for the downtown did not stop there. Two buildings in desperate need of rescue found their heroes in Danny and Wendy Dulak of 2nd Chance Ventures. Described as “a growing eyesore” and “plagued with structural problems and facing demolition” by the Daily News, the buildings are now providing space for new and expanding downtown retailers.
2nd Chance Ventures worked on reviving the Hilt building first. It now houses the Local Collective, which recently expanded to completely occupy the all of the available retail space. The building also has luxury apartments, complete with a rooftop deck. The Dulaks also breathed new life into the historic Welsch building, home to Soapy Paws, a new downtown business that opened in 2020.
These two businesses are not alone in making downtown Hartford their home over the past two years. Joining them are:
- KJB Woodworks – opened in 2020
- Loan Simple Mortgage Co. – opened in 2020
- AJ Collectables – opened in early 2021
What’s Next for Downtown Hartford??
The Hartford Public Market will soon be open for business in the Welsch building. They will offer consumables from a variety of local vendors. The Millstream Building was purchased and provides the new home for Staffing Support Specialists. Owners, Ane and Bill Ohm have high hopes for the spaces available in the building, including exploring options for a taproom/outdoor beer garden along the Rubicon River. Part of their vision is to have a deck that overhangs the river. These ideas are being explored and the Ohms are working with HADC to explore options for funding through state grants for historic buildings.
It’s a testament to the value of Hartford as a place to live, work, and play that so many businesses opened or expanded here, despite the challenges of the pandemic. Be sure to read Part 2 of our “Business is Booming” series to learn about the new restaurants Hartford has welcomed, as well as new or expanding businesses coming to Sumner Street. Hint: anyone want a latte?
Keep an eye out for the next article in our series ( Part 2: Business is Booming in Hartford ) where we cover all the businesses coming to Hwy 60!