Hiring practices at 225 Centre St. discussed

October 12, 2012
By

JACKSON SQ.—The developer of the 225 Centre St. project has released strong local and minority construction hiring numbers, but a local community activist is questioning them as they differ from the City’s.

The numbers in September for construction hours were 42 percent for city residents, 36 percent for minorities and 7 percent for women, according to the developer, The Community Builders (TCB). Only 17 percent of the project, or 13,000 hours, had been completed when the Gazette spoke with TCB.

Ensuring the hiring of city and minority residents at local construction jobs has long been a prominent issue.

The state Senate recently approved a modified version a bill by local state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz that would help ensure public projects funded by taxpayer dollars are creating local jobs and promoting workforce diversity. The bill was referred to the state House Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

And local City Councilor Tito Jackson noted in an interview with the Gazette that many city residents need and are looking for work. He said that construction projects should reflect the people who live in the area.

“We want to ensure that we have the proper representation of residents,” said Jackson.

The agreed-to percentage for the 225 Centre St. project’s construction hours is the following: 50 percent city residents; 40 percent minorities; and 10 percent women. The 40 percent minorities is up from the 25 percent the City requires.

But Rodney Singleton, chair of the Jackson Square Community Advisory Committee, a group formed in 2006 to oversee the redevelopment of the area, said that the developer, The Community Builders (TCB), had different August numbers on construction hours than the City, casting doubt on their veracity.

“They were supposed to match,” said Singleton. “They didn’t.”

He added, “The City’s numbers were sometimes lower, sometimes higher. But they were different.”

Singleton said the City is currently looking into the irregularities.

Brooke Woodson, director of the City’s Small & Local Business Enterprise department, said that the City and the developer did indeed have two different set of numbers and a person in his office is looking into why, as they want to be working from the same information. But he did not express strong concern, saying, “‘Irregularities’ might be too strong a word.”

Noah Sawyer, TCB project manager at the site, responded that the company is transparent with the numbers and don’t have two set of numbers for different audiences.

“We are on track to meet our goals that we set for the project,” said Sawyer. “We feel good so far.”

Singleton is also questioning the dollars spent on Women-based Business Enterprises (WBEs) and Minority-based Business Enterprises (MBEs). The WBEs and MBEs are the subcontractors hired by the general contractor to do construction work at the site.

Both Singleton and Sawyer agree that the target set for MBEs is 25 percent, but Singleton said for WBEs it’s 10 percent, while Sawyer said it’s 5 percent. Singleton said that the target percentages are set in the contract between the developer and the general contractor.

Singleton said that TCB is double-counting companies for both MBEs and WBEs, a practice not followed by the City or state.

Stephanie Anderson, spokesperson for the TCB, replied that the company is using the methodology requested by its lender, MassHousing.

“We are happy to provide community stakeholders with alternate reporting formats,” said Anderson in an email to the Gazette. “We remain focused on the substance of our efforts to provide contracting opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses in Boston.”

Using the MassHousing methodology, the current numbers stand at 31 percent for MBEs and 26 percent for WBEs. But if the methodology is changed and MBEs are not included, the number for non-minority WBEs is 9 percent, according to Sawyer.

About 11 acres of land in Jackson Square is being redeveloped by a team that includes Mitchell Properties, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation and Urban Edge. The 225 Centre St. project is the first of several phases.

Anyone interested in jobs at the 225 Centre St. project may visit 225centre.com or visit the construction site on Wednesdays between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.