HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin addressed the city’s business community Thursday during the annual MetroHartford Alliance breakfast, just days after he presented his 2023 budget proposal.

One main competent was his vision for the city’s downtown, which he expanded on during Thursday’s event.

“We really need everyone in this room to be engaged in building this city,” Bronin said.

Like cities across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic was a major economic hit to the Hartford community. Companies in the downtown area adopted remote work policies and left the city with millions of square feet of empty office space.

Bronin wants the city to not only recover but grow beyond pre-pandemic times. He says one way to do that is by making Hartford a place to work and live.

“I have been focused on a long time to make residential density, making sure that the downtown area isn’t overly dependent on office buildings, but that work becomes more important now than ever,” he said.

The city will continue using the Hart Lift Program established by the Chamber of Commerce. With funding from the American Rescue Plan, the program is aimed at getting rid of empty storefronts in the Capital City.

“I’m very happy to tell you we have well over 60 new restaurants and retail that are opening up in the city over the next 12 months,” David Griggs, president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance.

The mayor also had a call to action for the business community. He asked the group to encourage employees to work in office buildings, which will in turn support economic growth during the work week.