Mitchell grilled on minority hiring
JACKSON SQ.—A new indoor recreation facility—including a new home for the Kelly ice skating rink—came a step closer to reality this month, with developers releasing a study saying the rink can be built and kept affordable for locals without debt financing.
The non-profit developer Urban Edge presented the promising results in the second of two studies it commissioned at the Jan. 19 meeting of the Jackson Square Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The first study, released last summer, determined that there is local demand for an indoor recreation facility that includes both ice and an indoor turf field.
The meeting also featured a grilling for for-profit developer Bart Mitchell on the specifics of his plans for hiring minority-owned contractors and meeting work-hour goals as he moves to begin work this spring on a mixed-use residential/retail development in the square.
Mitchell Properties and Urban Edge—along with the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC)—are key members of the consortium Jackson Square Partners (JSP). JSP members are individually working on development plans that will eventually see 9 acres of publicly and privately owned land in Jackson Square redeveloped.
Urban Edge is planning to build its new facility on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Ritchie Street in Jackson Square.
The rink is intended to replace the current open-air temporary incarnation of JP’s Kelly Rink in the Southwest Corridor Park near the Stony Brook T Station that has been operating for over 10 years. Before that, the Kelly had a home on the Jamaicaway that fell into disrepair and was demolished.
Urban Edge staffer Noah Maslan told members of the CAC that last summer’s study determined that a multi-use facility, with turf and ice, is the most popular design option.
That option would include ice-skating from September to March and an artificial turf field from for things like indoor soccer and baseball in the spring and summer.
The latest study shows, Maslan said, that such a facility could “break even with no debt servicing and no fund-raising.”
The study’s budget estimates indicate that revenue generators such as renting the rink and field to sports teams and for parties during off-peak hours could offset lower-cost access to the facilities for members of the local community. The estimate indicates that the rink could even turn a small profit of close to $5,000 a year, even with $50,000 set aside annually as capital reserve.
“Boston lags behind many other major cities in offering inner-city kids an affordable opportunity to participate in ice skating activities. Most rinks in Massachusetts are very hockey oriented, with limited programs for the rest of the community,” the report, produced by consultants the Ice Management Group, says.
According to the report, the proposed rink would still be used for hockey the vast majority—72 percent—of the time.
That is still more public access than other area rinks, which are all devoted to hockey over 80 percent and even as much s 90 percent of the time. And Maslan said that IMG recommended careful scheduling of public access hours. The consultants recommended that public skating be scheduled for after school, Friday nights and on weekends to ensure accessibility. The report also recommends “open-skate” opportunities specifically targeted at seniors, parents and toddlers, and teens, he said.
Maslan said the ownership structure of the facility would include a community advisory board to ensure that community access to the facility.
He said Urban Edge would continue to work with the community in the coming months to get input on the design of and scheduling for the rink.
Urban Edge still needs Boston Redevelopment Authority approval for its rink plans, and has a significant amount of work to do to secure funding for the ice rink. Urban Edge executive director Chrystal Kornegay told the Gazette the developer hopes to begin work on the facility in spring 2012. “Of course, that requires that many things come together,” she said.
Urban Edge plans to begin work on an already approved expansion of the Webb Building—where its offices are located—this year, if it secures funding from the state. That expansion will see 38 new mixed-income rental apartments and 12,000 square feet for community programs to its Webb Building at 1542 Columbus Avenue.
Bart Mitchell of Mitchell Properties reported that, assuming funding goes through, his company, Mitchell Properties hopes to begin construction on a mixed-use residential and retail development at 225 Centre St. in the spring.
He got an earful from the CAC about minority hiring for that upcoming construction project—which will see 225 units of mixed income housing with ground floor retail.
CAC member Dan Cruz told Mitchell he is concerned that he has “not seen people of color in your business management team.”
During the meeting, Cruz—who has knowledge of the minority construction business landscape through his work with his family’s Roxbury-based construction, development and management firm Cruz Companies—aggressively pushed Mitchell to utilize local minority-owned contractors as much as possible.
He challenged Mitchell’s suggestion that the size and complexity of the project limits the pool of general contractors Mitchell Properties can choose from, which Mitchell suggested would make it unlikely that the general contractor would be a minority-owned business.
“I can think of two minority contractors…off the top of my head,” who could handle the job, Cruz said, suggesting that Mitchell could also look into setting up a partnership that would include a minority-owned general contractor as part of the team.
The project will likely employ scores of sub-contractors. Cruz also pushed Mitchell Properties, and its new partner Community Builders, to try to come up with ways to go beyond state rules that define minority-owned businesses as including businesses owned by people of European descent from Portugal and Spain.
“I am very disturbed with any development in Jackson Square or Roxbury that is going to use contractors that don’t exist here.” The question, he said, is, “What does it really represent as far as wealth generation…The track you are going down is going to lead to fewer economic opportunities for people in this community.”
Immediately following the meeting, Mitchell told the Gazette he was not sure about the legal implications of employing a more stringent standard for minority-owned businesses, and is not committed to doing that.
He did say that he is open to setting up a partnership to handle the general contractor responsibilities, and to continue to communicate with the CAC leading up to and during construction.
Mitchell also said that he does not have a lot of experience promoting minority hiring in his development projects, and that he welcomes the advice and counsel of the CAC.
The state requires of projects it helps fund that 25 percent of construction dollars go to minority- and women-owned businesses.
As a whole, JSP has developed a more stringent objective than the one outlined in the City of Boston’s Construction Jobs Policy. That policy—which outlines workforce requirements, not business ownership requirements—calls for 50 percent of the work hours on the project to go to local residents; 25 percent to minority workers and 10 percent to women.
JSP is shooting for 40 percent of work hours to go to minority workers. The consortium came close but did not hit those marks in roadway and infrastructure work that it began last year.