Agreement to obtain more than 50 percent Black participation reached
by Lesley R. Chinn
By this summer, for numerous senior citizens who are looking for affordable housing that provides independent living or supportive service accommodations, the Montclare Seniors Building will become the place to be in the 8th Ward.
After the 3.3-acre site is completed, the building will serve as an independent and a supportive living facility. Affordable rents for the 102- unit facility will range from $168 to $725 per month. Montclare will be located at 78th and Avalon. The senior facility will include amenities such as a library, a business center, an exercise center and a medical room. The building will be similar in appearance to a facility previously built on the Northside located at 6640 W. Belden.
Eighth Ward Ald. Michelle Harris solicited the assistance of the Chatham Business Association (CBA) to ensure that Black participation needs were met. The project is currently in the first of three phases of construction. It will not be completed until this summer. Right now, contracting bids are still open for the next two phases. The overall cost of the entire project is $60 million including $22 million for the first phase. These costs also include the $16 million for the construction of the first phase aspect of the project and $48 million for the total construction, according to Philip Mappa, managing director for the MR Properties, L.L.C.
The CBA renegotiated contracts on the construction project in previous meetings that were issued before its involvement in October 2008. Before the group’s involvement, CBA Chairman William Garth and publisher of the Citizen Newspapers, said there was a lack of Black participation. After continuous negotiations with the CBA and the Citizen Newspapers, an agreement to ensure more than 50 percent of Black community participation was reached, according to an announcement Garth made at a special CBA meeting regarding the Montclare project on Monday at the Quentis Bernard Garth Foundation Building, 806 E. 78th St. The foundation is also home to the Citizen Newspaper, a corporation which prides itself on serving as the eyes and ears of the community. Mappa praised efforts of Alderman Harris and the CBA to ensure local participation. His development company is also working with Crane Construction, the general contractor for the construction project. Mappa said that having local participation makes the contracting process a lot easier.
“Relative to contractors, it’s very difficult to get the experience that they need if they don’t get the small jobs first,” Mappa stated. “From the developers’ standpoint, we direct the contractors.
“If we don’t have access to those groups such as this one in the beginning, it becomes very difficult,” Mappa continued. “Once the city, state and our lenders make all those requirements, it’s hard to backtrack.” The second phase will bring additional contracting opportunities, which is still under negotiation at this time. “We need you to let us know which contractors can do the job before we get all the financing in place,” Mappa told the CBA.
Attendees asked questions about whether or not this is a 100-percent union labor construction project and if assistance would be provided to non-union workers.
Jeff Crane, Crane’s president, said the site is a labor union project and will provide whatever assistance they can to non-union members. Meanwhile, CBA executive director Melinda Kelly said the group would provide assistance through its workshops in partnership with the developers and construction firm. These workshops will focus on issues such as business development, finance, computer training, general liability, compensation insurance and bonding.
“This is a million dollar project on some of the bids. It’s going to take some financing. We know we are not done yet, but we are definitely prepared to sit down one-on-one to get our minority contractors ready to do business,” Kelly stated, while telling Mappa and Crane about experts who are also members of CBA that can help point them in the right direction.
CBA Vice-Chairman Joe Caldwell said after the contracts are issued, services will be needed. “If you’re not in construction, don’t sell yourself out and think that you can’t get involved,” he stated. “If you want to be part of this, come to us and let us know what your needs are.”
For information about employment opportunities, call the CBA Small Business Development Inc., at (773) 994-5006.