HARTFORD, CT — Hartford HealthCare says it will relocate 400 employees and hire 300 more for its newly leased space in downtown Hartford’s 100 Pearl St. office tower, which is slated for renovations both inside and out.
The multimillion-dollar investment, detailed to Hartford Business Journal in an interview with Hartford HealthCare CEO Jeffrey Flaks, came together in just five months and creates major downtown visibility for the region’s largest health system, he said.
More importantly, the move aims to make Hartford HealthCare, parent to Hartford Hospital, a much bigger player in the center city as it tries to position itself as not just a care provider, but as a leading healthcare innovator and developer of new health technologies.
The new space will include a first-floor innovation center for use by Hartford HealthCare staff as well as new medical-technology startups.
The addition of 700 employees will also create new vibrancy downtown, while also helping fill up vacant office space.
Hartford HealthCare will be investing about $14 million in the project, but millions more will be spent on the property upgrade, which landlord Shelbourne Global will pay for.
HHC’s logo will be visible high atop the 18-story tower, and significant renovations, including installing clear glass on the first few floors of the building and expanding the footprint with a two-story glass cube at the corner of Pearl and Trumbull streets -- inspired by Apple’s Fifth Avenue office in New York City -- will allow people walking or driving by to clearly see HHC’s media team in action in a new, upgraded TV studio, as well as innovation teams working with startups to develop new products and technologies.
“We have a vision to put people and feet on the street in Hartford,” Flaks said. “Health care is an economic driver and this particular project we’re putting forth is a really outstanding example of how we can use Hartford HealthCare to ultimately drive significant economic value for many sectors within our region.”
Renovations are expected to be complete and all 700 staff in place within 18 months, he said.
Renovation work has already begun inside the tower, where Hartford HealthCare will have six floors totaling just over 80,000 square feet.
There will be urgent-care telehealth booths for patients to interact virtually with HHC providers, lobby improvements and new equipment and renovations on multiple floors.
Flaks says there could be opportunities to lease more space in the future.
Officials had initially scheduled a major public announcement on Pearl Street this week, but the ongoing coronavirus outbreak forced HHC to cancel those plans. Numerous other gatherings and events in the area, from charity fundraisers to conventions, have been postponed or canceled over the past week.
Hartford HealthCare recently launched a pilot program for drive-up virus testing, and on Friday, health officials announced Hartford County’s first positive coronavirus test. The patient, a Rocky Hill woman, is at Hartford Hospital.
Starting in June, Hartford HealthCare plans to move non-clinical employees from the health system’s flagship Hartford Hospital, its Newington campus and eight other Connecticut locations to 100 Pearl.
Functions moving downtown include HHC’s chief investment officer, supply chain department, legal team, media and marketing staff, and others.
The 300 new hires are all slated to work in a planned “patient access center,” which is a central hub for scheduling patient appointments and procedures and ensuring HHC’s growing network of hospitals and outpatient facilities are utilized as efficiently as possible.
It’s a sort of patient-facing version of HHC’s care logistics center, a facility it opened in 2017 to better coordinate hospital-to-hospital patient transfers by ambulance and air.
HHC said the logistics center, currently housed in Newington, will also move to 100 Pearl.
While the logistics center handled nearly 9,000 cases per year, the patient access center is eventually expected to handle several million, Flaks said.
The first-floor innovation center is reflective of Hartford HealthCare's desire to dive more deeply into healthcare technology development. The health system helped launch a new healthcare startup accelerator and recently inked an agreement with the Israel Innovation Authority to bring Israeli technologies and companies to Connecticut to develop and commercialize new products.
As HHC is Connecticut’s second largest employer, Flaks said it has a duty to its home city and region, and he is eager to talk about the economic impacts of the planned project.
But there will be benefits for his health system too, of course.
First, there’s a marketing value to HHC in making its brand and presence more visible and prominent downtown.
Then there are real estate considerations.
“There are economies of scale here because we are centralizing services and there will be more efficiencies as we provide them in a more coordinated fashion,” Flaks said.
The functions that are moving downtown will also free up some space for higher-value clinical uses, he said.
“It will let us expand acute care and have more clinical care at the campuses,” he said.
Shelbourne Global Solutions acquired 100 Pearl in 2015 for $37 million. The building has been underleased of late, after its former marquee tenant Virtus opted for a move across the street to the Gold Building. The HHC deal stabilizes the building and provides for further improvements to the Class A space.
“We are thrilled to partner with Hartford HealthCare and whole-heartedly welcome them to 100 Pearl and to Shelbourne’s growing list of top-tier tenants,” Shelbourne Chief Operating Officer Michael Seidenfeld said in a statement. “HHC, a leader in providing quality healthcare throughout the state, shares our vision for Hartford’s future and will provide a vital amenity to city workers and residents. The decision by HHC to expand their headquarters to downtown Hartford is concrete and tangible evidence of the resurgence currently taking place in the commercial core of the city.”