The former Swift Factory, on Love Lane, is being transformed into the “Swift Community Food and Business Development Center.”
The nonprofit group that owns the property, Community Solutions International, was awarded a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Wednesday.
Community Solutions plans to turn the 65,000 square-foot former gold leafing factory into a community hub for employment and entrepreneurship based around food.
The redevelopment of the Swift Factory complex will also provide health and economic initiatives for the community.
According to a spokesperson for Community Solutions, Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue will be one of the anchor tenants, not with a restaurant but a commissary kitchen.
“Other tenants will include an indoor growing operation, aquaponics, an operation where you can grow food indoors,” said Community Engagement Coordinator John Thomas. “The sky’s the limit as far as what type of tenant can come in here.”
He said the company is focused on hiring local residents. There will be about 200 construction jobs and 175 permanent jobs at the site.
Thomas lives near the factory and said it is extremely meaningful to residents to have this opportunity in the north end.
“When this is done this will be like a centerpiece of redevelopment in the neighborhood and reversing the conditions that exist now,” said Thomas.
The $2.5 million investment by the U.S. Department of Commerce comes more than two years after North Hartford was designated a “promise zone,” by the Obama Administration. That means the area would get priority consideration for federal funding.
In order to be eligible, one of the qualifications was dependent upon the overall poverty of residents within the promise zone.
Senator Murphy who was behind the push to turn Hartford into a “Promise Zone,” released a statement in response to the federal grant:
“This is exactly the kind of investment North Hartford needs. This $2.8 million grant will help transform the old Swift Factory into new working space for Hartford businesses. It’ll create jobs and help spur more private investments throughout the neighborhood in the process,” said Murphy. “I fought hard to get North Hartford designated as a Promise Zone because I’ve always believed that the neighborhood and its hardworking residents show a ton of promise. Washington is finally starting to see it that way too.”
In a press release announcing the federal funding, Wednesday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross wrote:
“The Trump Administration is committed to helping American workers and businesses with improvements in their communities. I look forward to seeing how the Swift Community Food and Business Development Center will support local businesses and develop new entrepreneurs.”
A spokesperson for Community Solutions said construction is set to begin in October, with the plan to open the end of 2018.