The Swift Gold Leaf Factory in Hartford, Connecticut, will be converted into a major community job incubator by New York-based nonprofit Community Solutions and Massachusetts design firm Bruner/Cott Architects. The $34-million adaptive reuse project aims to spur investment in the low-income neighborhood of Northeast Hartford and bring restaurant industry job opportunities to a place where the unemployment rate has hit 26 percent in recent years.
Since 2005, the 65,000-square-foot facility has sat vacant on a narrow plot of land in the middle of the residential area on Love Lane. Once the world’s leading manufacturer of gold leaf, the brick-clad megastructure has begun to deteriorate due to neglect and lack of use. Community Solutions, founded by West Hartford native Rosanne Haggerty, best known for transforming the Times Square Hotel into supportive housing, has worked for over eight years to get construction started on the historic, industrial brownfield site.
Designed by renovation experts Bruner/Cott, the project will be twofold: It will update the 1887 main factory building into a complex that will include commissary kitchens for local restaurants, including its anchor tenant Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue. It will also feature an incubator kitchen space for up-and-coming local businesses as well as a hydroponic farm. The other buildings on site will be potentially used as arts spaces or healthcare facilities. As a whole, Community Solutions hopes to provide job training options and improve well-being amongst the locals.
In an interview with the Hartford Courant, the group’s community outreach coordinator, John J. Thomas, explained that the redevelopment is being built on an anti-gentrification model. They want to target area residents—largely African American and Latino families—who are in need of work, instead of developing and displacing those already there. The idea is to train people in the food industry to eventually move on to higher-paying jobs or start their own businesses.
The project is slated for completion by end of 2019 and is expected to bring at least 150 permanent jobs to Northeast Hartford. Post-construction, Community Solutions plans to stay in the neighborhood to help build out more sustainable and healthy projects that will drive economic growth in the area.