HCLF Policy Initiative: Healthy Hartford Hub
Policy Initiative Timeframe: 2012 – 2015
Policy Background and Objective
Among cities its size (100,000 – 250,000), a 2012 study by the CDFI Fund ranked Hartford as the 8th worst in the country for providing access to healthy and affordable food. The City’s Community Health Needs Assessment report completed the same year identified significant health disparities between residents in the city’s middle and upper income neighborhoods and those in lower income neighborhoods and in communities of color. Many of these disparities - increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, etc. – have been linked to poor dietary choices. While no longer an active policy initiative, HCLF’s work on the Healthy Hartford Hub sought to leverage HCLF’s access to resources from the CDFI Fund’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) in an effort to increase Hartford resident access to healthy and affordable food, while maximizing the project’s potential for improving health outcomes for city residents.
In collaboration with the City of Hartford, HCLF identified city-owned vacant land between the Clay Arsenal and Downtown neighborhoods large enough for development of a full service supermarket. With such an opportunity on a parcel in the Downtown North neighborhood, HCLF commissioned an independent market study to evaluate the retail potential of the site. The study, which was funded by the CDFI Fund’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, indicated that with only one full service supermarket on the western edge of the city, Hartford residents were spending more than $40 million each year buying groceries at food retailers in Hartford’s suburbs. A second supermarket in the city was projected to recapture approximately 75% of this retail leakage, while creating approximately 200 new jobs.
HCLF then identified and secured a preliminary commitment from a local operator of several Connecticut-based ShopRite stores, for development of a 55,000 sf store in the Downtown North area. The facility was projected to serve approximately 20,000 shoppers on a regular basis, with the majority of those from Hartford’s northend neighborhoods.
In collaboration with the local ShopRite owner, HCLF partnered with Hartford Food System to design an expanded concept – the “Healthy Hartford Hub” – in an effort to maximize health benefits of the project for Hartford residents. Concepts of the Healthy Hartford Hub included a fulltime in-store nutritionist, walk-in medical clinic, adjacent year-round indoor/outdoor farmers market, community teaching kitchen, and culinary training program.
In June, 2014 Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced the City would build a minor league baseball stadium on an adjacent vacant parcel in the Downtown North neighborhood. The surprise announcement resulted in the ShopRite operator’s decision to withdraw from the Healthy Hartford Hub project; however, the City required that the selected Stadium developer include a full service supermarket as part of the larger development plan. The developer has committed that construction of the supermarket, to be located across the street, will begin in early 2016.
Update (December, 2016):
In the spring of 2016, Centerplan acknowledged that it had failed to secure a an operator for its promised downtown supermarket. Centerplan requested that the City, now led by a newly inaugurated Mayor Luke Bronin, release it from its 2014 contractual commitment to bring a supermarket to Downtown North. Before it could respond, issues surrounding the delayed completion of Dunkin Donuts stadium resulted in the City’s termination of its agreement with Centerplan to develop Downtown North.
Hartford’s food desert remains.
In August, 2016, blogger Jamil Ragland wrote a detailed account of the rise and fall of the Healthy Hartford Hub project, which can be found here: http://www.nutmeggerdaily.com/?p=156