Downtown Hartford Living: Here Come the Groceries

The development of downtown Hartford is always of interest to me because I work with clients that contemplate living in the city versus the ‘burbs. Today, the Courant provided some insight on the build-out of the grocery store in the Hartford 21 building on Trumbull Street. Soon, I will finally have a better answer to, “Where is the nearest grocery store?” when asked by a customer. At this point I tell them 3 options, Wethersfield, the western edge of Hartford, or West Hartford. All require them to get in a car and drive. There is no real walkable option if they choose to buy or rent in downtown Hartford. This, coupled with the fact that there is a dearth of other retail shopping downtown, typically leads them to focus their search in the suburbs. As a resident of Hartford, I find this frustrating.

As the article points out, what we really have going on here is the chicken-and-egg dilemma. Retailers don’t want to invest in a space where there is not a substantial residential base to support their stores. And residents don’t want to invest in housing in an area where there is a lack of even the most basic necessities. In this case, no grocery store and *gasp* a Starbucks with limited weekend hours. Eeek!

So, kudos to developer Lawrence R. Gottesdiener for sinking $2 million of his dough into the store build-out when the agreement with Bliss Market didn’t work out. I, and I’m sure all of the residents in downtown Hartford, will anxiously await the announcement of who will operate the store.

On a side note, I found one quote striking and it caused me to wonder, is downtown Hartford being rebuilt to attract only, as Gottesdiener was quoted as saying “…the affluent…the sexy people, the wealthy people.”

Doesn’t this severely limit the size of the pie of who can afford to buy or rent in downtown Hartford and consequently support a retail base? Wouldn’t stores be more inclined to open in an area where there is a diversity of housing/rental prices, not just high end, because it would mean the potential for a wider range of customers? It seems that the chicken-and-egg dilemma is exacerbated when the target market is so focused.

Just some food for thought…