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December 2, 2021

Hartford Chamber, city launching $6M grant program to help landlords fill empty storefronts

Photo | Eli Pousson via flickr

The Hartford Chamber of Commerce is rolling out a new program designed to help owners of retail spaces left vacant by the COVID-19 pandemic attract new tenants to their buildings.

In a statement, chamber officials said the new Hart Lift program will channel up to $6 million in American Rescue Plan funding to property owners to help them redevelop or improve their empty, ground-floor storefronts, with the ultimate goal of reducing the now widespread vacancies along major commercial corridors in the city, including the downtown area.

Grants provided through the Hart Lift initiative can only be used for buildout costs for new or existing ground floor units, the chamber said. Recipients can qualify for a grant of up to $50 per square foot of space, 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 through a combination of both parties; the required matching rate is 50% outside the downtown area.

To be eligible for funding, property owners must be in good standing with the city and have vacant or not leased ground floor retail space.

Property owners with multiple vacant storefronts can apply for a grant for each empty property, according to the chamber.

While it is not clear exactly how many Hartford businesses were forced out of operation by the pandemic, a steep reduction in commuting to and from the capital city during the lockdowns of 2020 had a devastating impact on the commercial stretches of downtown, where many restaurants, bars, cafes and small shops have since closed down.

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