The Courant has an interesting article, seemingly based on a city report published in January [PDF], on the “retail vibrancy” of Hartford’s Park Street neighborhood, where storefront vacancies are dramatically fewer than in the city’s downtown:
The 2-mile-plus Park Street retail corridor — running from Main Street to Prospect Avenue — has an enviable mix of restaurants, clothing boutiques, bodegas, jewelry shops and grocery stores, partly the result of planning and support by the local merchants association.
Some of the success has to do with the smaller retail spaces and far lower rents on Park Street. Most of the storefronts have apartments above them, with well-populated neighborhoods close by, providing crucial, ready-made foot traffic of the sort that downtown still lacks.
The article then notes the other important factor at play: Park Street’s role as a center of regional Latino community life, which draws visitors from outside the immediate area.
I can’t claim to have explored Park Street much while living in Hartford. There was a decent amount of retail and dining on and around Farmington Avenue, another avenue spoking out from downtown, near where we (predictably) lived in the West End. There, UConn Law School both fostered a high residential population and served to bring in regional visitors. But it’s useful to remember that knowledge-industry-driven gentrification is not the only process capable of driving a revitalization of New England’s small cities.
The title of this post, by the way, refers to Hartford’s optimistic, and possibly erstwhile, marketing slogan.