November 29, 2018

Hartford design, marketing firm to move into closed library branch

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Hartford-based design and marketing firm Co:Lab will move into the city's shuttered Goodwin library branch on Monday.
Photo | Contributed
From left to right: Southwest and Behind the Rocks NRZ co-Chair Karolina Kwiecinska; HPL board of directors Vice Chair David Barrett; CO:LAB Principal Rich Hollant; Hartford City Council Majority Leader James Sanchez; HPL CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey; Southwest and Behind the Rocks NRZ Co-Chair Kathy Evans.

A Hartford design and marketing firm says it's moving into the city's defunct Goodwin library branch on Monday, leveraging the space for its use and other community initiatives.

Co: Lab, currently at 1429 Park St., and its five employees will occupy a third of the 5,000-square-foot library at 460 New Britain Ave., which the Hartford Public Library (HPL) closed earlier this year to cut costs.

The remaining space will be devoted to community meetings, programs and performances when it opens early in 2019, according to Rich Hollant, the founder and principal of Co:Lab.

On the company's 30th anniversary Thursday, Hollant said the firm works with nonprofits that are "deeply committed to doing right by people." Hollant founded the company in Boston in 1988, moving it to Hartford five years later when he had his first child.

Hollant said the community portion of the Goodwin library will house a variety of community programs, meetings, activities and events that are "beneficial to the community." The firm, he says, is also exploring bringing a farmers/makers market, garden and pop-up cafe to the property.

Several local nonprofits, including the Hartford Youth Scholars and RE-Center, a Hartford-based educational workshop centered on race and equity, are expected to use the space. Hollant says the community area has a capacity for 80, adding it's already equipped with projectors, automated screens and eight computers left behind by the library.

Other amenities for public use will include a reading area, kitchen, and reception and conference rooms. Known as "Free Center," community members can use the facility at no cost.

Hollant, who plans on hiring additional employees, says his firm will conduct an assessment of local organizations to identify their needs.

The space, leased by Co:Lab for five years, will undergo minor renovations before it debuts for public use next year, officials said.

In Dec. 2017, the Hartford Public Library announced it would close three neighborhood branches: Goodwin, Blue Hills and Mark Twain. Library officials on Wednesday said they spent much of this year, working with Southwest and Behind the Rocks NRZ, looking for suitable tenants that would add value to the Goodwin neighborhood.

"We were hoping to find a dynamic, civic-minded partner that would utilize the space with the interests of the community in mind," HPL CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said of the Hartford firm's move to the library.

Hollant says his firm is committed to that standard.

"I think we need to pay more attention to public-private partnerships," Hollant said. "This is a win-win for everybody and an important part for me to inspire other businesses to think in this way."

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