Located in the heart of Northeast Hartford, the 65,000 square-foot former Swift gold leafing factory is not what it used to be. While the building remains visually striking, it has long since been the prominent Hartford employer it once was. After finally closing its doors in 2004, the factory now functions primarily as a reminder of the city’s past industrial glory. But soon, that glory will be both restored and reimagined as Community Solutions embarks on a project to transform the former gold-leafing factory into a community Hub. Gina Muslim, Director of the Hartford Community Partnerships, and Sweta Patel, Senior Project Manager in Inspiring Places, represented Community Solutions at the Sustainable Cities Design Academy (SCDA) in Washington, DC where they were challenged to envision a future for the Swift site.
Selected by the SCDA as one of four organizations/cities throughout the country, Community Solutions was invited to brainstorm and determine the key elements of projects that could both transform specific communities and be replicated in other places. Of the experience, Gina Muslim says, “Participation in the SCDA was invaluable and allowed our team the time and space with both our local partners and international experts to think, imagine and co-create the future of Swift.”
In the intensive two-day workshop, our team zeroed in on three themes to guide the reuse of the factory: Made at Swift, Healthy Swift and Green Swift. Made at Swift will be comprised of activities that support local production and job training, such as food manufacturing, a cafe and a commercial kitchen that would offer classes and opportunities to use shared equipment for food-related businesses. Healthy Swift will provide nutrition education, health education and links to a wider public health network. Green Swift will support sustainable living through green building technology and a sustainable site design, the reuse of the historic fabric, ambitious energy savings goals and the expansion of the existing urban farm on site to a network of vacant properties in the surrounding neighborhood.
As we transition out of the workshop and start to implement the ideas it inspired, we are certain that the relationships developed through the SCDA will, without question, support the implementation of the projects at the local level and will create opportunities to expand our network of thought leaders in service of truly restoring the Swift factory to greatness for the community of the Northeast Neighborhood of Hartford.