HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wants businesses to bring their employees back to offices. His reason is simple: bring life back downtown after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cities saw a profound shift as we moved to remote work, and many companies went to a hybrid model,” Bronin said.

The mayor said he wants to see as many people as possible in the city daily. It’s one of the goals of his final term.

He acknowledged that bringing workers back in person is challenging, with companies wanting to stay competitive and keep up with national trends.

“I know that every employer out there is trying to strike the right balance and is conscious of the need to keep members of their team who might look elsewhere,” Bronin said.

Bronin said he believes companies lose something when they shift to remote work.

“They lose the ability to build a culture to maintain a sense of team. I’m encouraging everybody to push a little bit harder to say it’s beneficial to companies and teams to be together physically together… and of course, it makes a huge difference for our cities,” he said.

The idea is that if workers return, downtown Hartford will flourish, especially along Pratt Street.

Alex Pilon is the co-owner of Bloom Bake Shop along Pratt Street. She opened her doors in August of 2022.  

“Increased foot traffic is going to help drive our business and grow our business too. Right now, we’re open Wednesday through Sunday, but we’re considering adding Tuesday in, especially for summer hours,” Pilon said.

Today you see many vacancies on Pratt Street, but there’s hope with signs in windows that say “Business Coming Soon!”

“One of the things that we’re trying to do here on Pratt Street is to make it a more inviting and friendly place for employees to want to come back into the office,” said David Griggs, Metro Hartford Alliance President and CEO.

The Hartford Chamber of Commerce is luring new businesses using the Hart Lift grant program by supporting retail businesses looking to renovate and reactivate spaces. This spring is the first time in decades that Pratt Street will be fully leased.

“It’s our challenge as a community to make or downtown the most vibrant and welcoming place that it can be,” Griggs said.