City Councilor Tito Jackson speaks at a Jan. 26 meeting of the Dudley Vision Task Force. Looking on are Shawmut Construction CEO Tom Goemaat (center) and Joseph Mulligan of the city’s Property and Construction Management Department. (Sandra Larson photo)
Shawmut Design and Construction will be the construction manager for the Dudley Square Municipal Office Facility, the $115 million project to redevelop the site of the long-vacant Ferdinand’s furniture store in the heart of Dudley Square.
The selection of the Boston firm was announced by Joseph Mulligan, deputy director of capital construction at the City of Boston’s Property and Construction Management Department at a Jan. 26 meeting of the Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force.
Shawmut projects include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum addition, the African Meeting House restoration, the Greater Boston Elder Services residential building and the Codman Square Health Center expansion now in progress.
The meeting was intended to address Ferdinand project work force opportunities with the new construction management team on hand. But before the Shawmut team was introduced, attendees fired questions at Mulligan about a host of other concerns: construction dust, noise, traffic problems, impact of construction on area businesses, and poor communication and outreach.
“In 14 months, you can put a person out of business,” said Task Force member Donovan Walker. “You need to let businesses know what’s happening so they can be prepared — and this has to come before the project if you want the project to be a success.”
Last February, when Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced the Ferdinand redevelopment plan, many residents and elected officials expressed relief that the eyesore dominating Dudley Square for decades would be rejuvenated. But the reality of living, working and maneuvering in a construction zone is hitting home.
In what city officials call “an aggressive timeline” to have the new Boston Public School headquarters and retail space ready as soon as possible, the groundbreaking is slated for March, and the new building is expected to open in late summer 2014.
But attendees at this meeting seemed to want things to slow down.
Throughout the meeting, which at many points became heated, people repeated that information is not being disseminated well. There was a sense the city is pushing on with a “done deal” without enough community input.
Task Force member Joyce Stanley said Ferdinand project planners do not seem to be communicating adequately with the MBTA and Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC), both of which will soon be launching improvement projects in Dudley Square.
Roxbury resident Connie Forbes asked about the project’s environmental impact. She and other attendees cited the high asthma rate in Roxbury and worried about dust and hazardous materials.
Kai Grant wondered if ideas she expressed in earlier meetings for creative use of the building’s rooftop would ever be addressed.
There are fears that the local community won’t know in advance about how to lease the new retail spaces, and that opportunities will be spoken for before local residents get a shot at them.
“We want to be informed, not updated,” said Walker, summing up concerns that better communication is needed — and sooner rather than later.
Dana Whiteside, Dudley Square Vision Project manager and deputy director of community development for the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), worked to calm the unrest.
He said concerns were being carefully noted and there would be plenty of chances to hear more and to be heard. He reminded the group of a Jan. 31 meeting to discuss design, and another meeting Feb. 23 (6 p.m., 2315 Washington St., Roxbury). He and Mulligan said including BWSC and MBTA in a future meeting is a good idea. Afterward, Whiteside indicated another meeting may be set for mid-February to address communication and outreach concerns.
Attendees suggested handing out flyers at Dudley Station and going door to door to inform elderly or disabled residents what to expect.
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz repeated a suggestion she made at a previous meeting that city agencies use social media and go on TOUCH 106.1 radio to announce construction job opportunities and meetings.
Shawmut CEO Tom Goemaat, when he was able to have the floor for a time, stressed his intent to partner with the community, especially on issues involving construction impact mitigation and job availability.
“We’re not going to take steps without talking to the right people in the community,” he said, “and if we don’t have the right people, we are looking to you to tell us who we need to be talking to.”
He has reached out to the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association (MMCA) already, he said.
The Shawmut team also alerted job seekers about some requirements.
“Everyone needs OSHA 10 training — 10 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training — before they can be hired,” said Goemaat. “So if you don’t have that, we’ll be working to make sure you know how to get it.”
In addition, workers on Shawmut’s payroll must be union members, though some trades hired by subcontractors can be non-union.
A handout provided at the meeting contained a list of resources and information for job seekers:
• The Roxbury Resource Center (617-989-9150) offers assistance with OSHA training programs and other building trades training programs.
• The Boston Residents Jobs Policy Office (617-918-5480) runs a jobs bank to help increase employment opportunities on city-funded construction projects for Boston residents, women and workers of color.
• A walk-up job trailer will be set up at the Ferdinand site where workers can submit applications and learn about upcoming trade work.
• The website www.dudleyvision.org will provide information on the project schedule as well as meeting notes that might contain work force-related news.
While much of the evening was focused on construction impact, reaction to Shawmut’s selection was positive. Walker expressed faith in the company even as he demanded more attention by the city to potential community impacts.
Jesse Jeter, MMCA’s executive director, was not present, but in a phone interview he expressed confidence in Shawmut’s minority hiring commitment.
“A, we’re happy with the selection, and B, we’re happy that they’ve reached out to us already,” said Jeter. “I know there’s a sincere desire there to establish and meet hiring goals for MBEs and WBEs [minority- and women-owned business enterprises].”
Jeter expects that workers and subcontractors will receive needed job information, though he is aware of the frustration and mistrust.
“There’s such a spotlight on this project, I’d be very surprised if they don’t have very good residency and [minority/women] enterprise hiring numbers on this job,” he said. “If things aren’t going well, the community will know. But I don’t see that taking place.”
District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson weighed in at the meeting with optimistic words.
“I met with Shawmut last week, and we had a good conversation about jobs,” he said. “One of the things I laid out is we’re not only working on jobs, but on wealth creation in our community.”
Jackson urged each person in the room to report back to 10 other people that there will be jobs on this project. He wants to ensure people have opportunities to apply and to get training where needed.
“We have an opportunity, working with Shawmut, to guide this process,” Jackson concluded. “We’ll make sure we benefit from this. I’m not going to let a project in the middle of my community not be built by folks in our community.”
The Ferdinand redevelopment project is starting to take shape.
Sasaki Architects gave an update to the Dudley Square Vision Advisory Task Force on Nov. 16 and showed 3-D models of two possible plans for the new construction.
Nick Brooks, the project architect, reviewed the basic project facts, unveiled previously: the new building will be used as a headquarters for the Boston Public Schools and a site for a few other related agencies. It will be the new workplace for 522 employees. Offices will occupy the upper floors, while the ground floor will hold the lobby area and commercial space for retail stores or restaurants. More »
Local workers seeking jobs jammed a recent Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force meeting to hear about the schedule and construction job opportunities for the Ferdinand project. They came away with a job forecast, but few guarantees and no immediate prospects for the $115 million project slated to start in spring of 2012.
Joe Mulligan, deputy director of capital construction at the city's Property and Construction Management Department (PCM), presented a timeline of construction activity and associated trades for each phase of the Ferdinand project.
In 2012, the early stages of the project include temporary and permanent stabilization of the historic facade, site preparation and foundation work. During that time there will likely be demand for laborers, ironworkers, welders, carpenters and operators. More »
The City of Boston is moving to acquire the two remaining buildings adjacent to the old Ferdinand's Furniture building to make more room for the planned $15 million Dudley Square Municipal Office Facility project, set to break ground in spring 2012.
City officials announced Nov. 30 that the privately-owned Curtis Block and Waterman & Sons buildings at 2304 and 2326 Washington St. will be acquired through a negotiated purchase or using the city's power of eminent domain. The acquisition means the new facility, which will contain the Boston Public Schools (BPS) administrative offices, can extend to all corners of the triangular block.
Kairos Shen, chief planner for the City of Boston and director of planning at the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), said that controlling the whole block will allow a better connection between the new building and Dudley Station, more street-facing retail space and a way out of the logistical troubles of constructing around the two buildings. More »