HARTFORD — Hartford HealthCare will expand its increasing presence in downtown Hartford later this year, opening an orientation and training center that will bring up to 250 jobs into the city at least twice a week, a boost for shops and restaurants recovering from a bruising pandemic.
The new, million-dollar center will be on the ground floor of One Financial Plaza, the “Gold Building,” diagonally across the street from the 100 Pearl St. office complex, where the health system is establishing its new headquarters.
“At a time when other organizations are bringing people away from our urban core through work-at-home and other programs of that nature, we’re leaning in,” Jeff Flaks, Hartford HealthCare’s chief executive, said Monday. “We’re working very hard to create a magnet, a sense of purpose to bring people here.”
The decision by the parent of Hartford HealthCare and six other hospitals in the state to open the training center comes as it invests $14 million in renovations to 100 Pearl.
The health system is leasing nearly 110,000 square feet in the two-towered complex at the pivotal corner of Pearl and Trumbull streets, and it has already hired or moved about 400 to the location.
By this fall, when Hartford HealthCare’s top executives moved into the space from the One State Street tower on Columbus Boulevard , there is expected to be about 550 in the Pearl Street building, Flaks said.
Flaks said the 7,000-square-foot lease in the Gold Building is expected to be signed in the near future. The aim is for the center to be ready for use by late fall or early winter, Flaks said.
The prospect of an influx into downtown of up to 250 people a week from the new center comes as some local business owners worry about the loss of state workers as a vital part of the lunch-time or after-hours crowd.
An agreement with state employee unions is allowing them to telework one day or a few days a week.
Major employers in and around downtown — Travelers Cos., Hartford Financial Services Group and Aetna Inc. — now are bringing employees back to the office but some, in a hybrid work arrangement that allows work at home at least part of the week.
The Gold Building, on the corner of Main and Pearl streets, is co-owned by Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC of Brooklyn, N.Y., downtown’s largest commercial landlord and LAZ Investments, a partner of Hartford-based parking giant LAZ Parking.
Shelbourne also owns 100 Pearl, where it has joined with Hartford HealthCare in an overall, $24 million renovation
Alan Lazowski, LAZ’s chairman and chief executive, said leasing decisions such as those made by Hartford HealthCare will boost downtown’s recovery from the pandemic-induced downturn.
“We’re building momentum and we have to continue to lean in and build momentum,” Lazowski said Monday. “We’re certainly not back yet, but with leases like this, we are going to get there.”
Hartford HealthCare’s moves into the heart of downtown Hartford also represent a partial consolidation of other offices in and around the city. The idea, Flaks said, is to strengthen Hartford’s “urban core” with leasing paired with sponsorship of cultural programs and organizations.
The health system already has established at 100 Pearl its “access center” that coordinates scheduling and appointments throughout its network. But Hartford HealthCare also is phasing in key corporate functions including chief investment office; its legal team; the office that manages partnerships and vendor agreements; and its public relations, advertising and marketing teams.
Those departments often draw visitors, who will become patrons of local restaurants and shops or guests at hotels, the health system says.
An emphasis on innovation in delivery of health care will be symbolized by the addition of a glass “cube” at the corner Pearl and Trumbull, modeled after the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York.
The high-tech orientation and training center will fit well with 100 Pearl, and it will be able to host other meetings of the medical community, Flaks said.
“We never had the capacity to truly orient all of our incoming colleagues in the manner that we need to, to build our culture and welcome them into this organization with the proper training and support,” Flaks said.