Winners of Hartford’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Challenge were announced at the end of May 2015. The SC2 Challenge is a key element of the SC2 Initiative, which seeks to enhance and support U.S. cities’ economic development.
The challenge was designed to help cities benefit from innovative business concepts for creating economic development plans and putting them into action. The winning teams shared a total of $800,000 of award money funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
Team FotoFiction earned a sixth place $25,000 award for its unique business concept. Innovation Destination: Hartford spoke with Frank Marchese, co-owner of Internet marketing and app development firm FotoFiction Inc., about Team FotoFiction’s business development concept and plans for the future.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: Tell us a little about your background.
MARCHESE: I’m a resident of Hartford. I’m also an advertising photographer specializing in portrait and lifestyle, working with advertising agencies and corporate clients.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: Who else is involved in Team FotoFiction?
MARCHESE: The other members of Team FotoFiction include Scott Van Sicklin, an Internet marketer to small businesses and game app developer; Kirk Bostwick, a commercial architect working in the fields of healthcare, education and civic projects; and Lawrence Davis, a commercial banker who provides financing to municipal and institutional customers.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: How did Team FotoFiction get the concept for its business plan?
MARCHESE: The inspiration behind FRATE came from London’s BoxPark, the first pop-up retail mall that used shipping containers. For the SC2 Challenge the goal was to model and improve from what BoxPark had accomplished.
Our proposal called for a mixed-use urban neighborhood to be built on the empty parking lots north of the downtown area along I-84. While our concept was materializing, the city awarded development rights to a developer to revitalize 19 city lots for the baseball stadium and apartments. Suddenly, this once-abandoned area that made up our Phase I proposal was being green-lighted for a more “traditional” construction. So goes the neighborhood.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: Can you describe the proposal?
MARCHESE: Our Phase I proposal called for an urban community of startups and entrepreneurs where people would live, work, dine and shop in a dynamic, trendsetting environment constructed entirely of modified shipping containers. Essentially, a new neighborhood would grow into Hartford’s answer to New York’s SoHo and become a magnet for young professionals and visionaries that would fuel Hartford’s future, as well as a compelling destination for visitors.
In Phase II, our team focused on the gaps in Hartford’s urban landscape, both the physical and economic gaps that make up our city. Neighborhoods where redevelopment efforts have stalled. Empty lots or dilapidated buildings that drain the vitality out of the city.
Right now repurposed shipping containers are being used for various projects in cities similar in size to Hartford. These cities recognize demographic and lifestyle changes that are influencing the next workforce generation. FRATE provides a blueprint to the city of Hartford. You can read more by downloading the PDF from the FRATE website.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: Why do you feel it’s important to create an “urban community”?
MARCHESE: Lately we’ve been seeing a strong interest among developers to create new downtown apartment living, which is long overdue. There’s still a lack of a smaller footprint—“right”-size retail space, food markets and affordable housing options. Building with modified shipping containers greatly lowers the cost of new construction offering more bang for your buck. There’s also a strong sustainability factor using repurposed containers.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: How do you plan to use the SC2 Challenge award money?
MARCHESE: Honestly, haven’t given it much thought.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: Where do you see your business concept going in the next two to five years?
MARCHESE: Hopefully, seeing FRATE projects come to fruition not only in Hartford but in other cities in Connecticut.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: What is the best thing about living/working in the Greater Hartford region?
MARCHESE: The diversity of its people. The opportunities that exist if you want to be involved in community, in business or through personal relationships.
INNOVATION DESTINATION: HARTFORD: Any advice for those who are starting out?
MARCHESE: Enjoy the ride.