225 Centre developers report on minority hiring

JACKSON SQ.—Following protests and setbacks, developers for the housing and retail tower going up at 225 Centre St., the first major piece of the massive Jackson Square redevelopment plan, presented what steps they are taking to improve minority hiring practices at a Jan. 16 Jackson Square Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting.

The developers, The Community Builders (TCB), UrbanEdge and Mitchell Properties, presented current percentages of minority, women and city residents and measures they are taking to increase those numbers. Initiatives include hiring more subcontractors that meet those criteria, increasing community outreach, and welcoming students and apprentices.

“Our plan is to award remaining work to [minorities] to try and meet the quota,” TCB spokesperson Noah Sawyer said at a Jan. 16 CAC meeting.

General contractor Walsh Brothers has also hired a compliance officer to boost their diversity hiring efforts, which includes a walk-on program where applicants can apply right at the job site. CAC members asked for more details of this program at the meeting. Of 133 walk-on applicants, 29 have found jobs within the city and four are currently working at 225 Centre, TCB Director of Communications Stephanie Anderson Garrett told the Gazette after the meeting.

TCB also has the option of suing Walsh Brothers, though its staff said at the meeting that they would prefer to pursue other options first, like hiring a higher percentage of minority and women subcontractors.

CAC chair Rodney Singleton told the Gazette he’d like to see Walsh hiring non-union subcontractors to help with the minority numbers, as most minority-owned firms are not in unions. He also said he wanted TCB to sue Walsh Brothers for breach of contract.

“I don’t think they’re doing everything they can, or they could have found a way to make this right,” Singleton told the Gazette.

“We remain consistent in our expectations,” Garrett said. “The increased community tension has intensified Walsh Brothers’ efforts, which is a good thing.”

TCB and Walsh Brothers have also met with representatives from the carpenters, laborers, electrical, bricklayer and sheet metal unions to discuss workforce diversity on the project. Several of the unions committed to improving, the developers said at that Jan. 16 CAC meeting, though they did not specify which.

Mitchell said at the meeting that he has appeared on radio station 106.1 more than once to promote union employment opportunities.

TCB say their subcontractors are finally getting the message.

“It’s a sea change from what we saw a few months ago. Contractors are now focusing on being compliant from day one,” Sawyer said at the meeting.

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