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Kenneth Guscott, 91, left legacy in Hub

Made his mark in real estate development, civil rights issues

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Kenneth Guscott, 91, left legacy in Hub
Ken Guscott

One of Boston’s most prominent black developers, Kenneth Guscott, died early Monday morning in a fire in his Milton home. He was 91.

In 1972, along with brothers Cecil and George, Guscott founded Long Bay Management, a business that included property management, development and construction. By 2000, the firm owned or managed 3,000 units, primarily in the greater Roxbury area.

The genesis of Long Bay, Guscott told the Banner in a 1993 interview, was an influx of tax breaks and other incentives that brought white developers into the predominantly black Roxbury community in the late 1960s and early ’70s. While buildings like the Area B Boston Police substation and Roxbury District Court were built, few blacks received contracts or jobs.

Kenneth Guscott served as president of the NAACP Boston Branch.

“We didn’t care if we made money,” Guscott told the Banner. “We just wanted to help rebuild our community.”

The brothers started with a 17-unit apartment building and expanded from there, employing 63 people and contracting with dozens of minority-owned firms.

Over the years, Guscott developed a reputation for supporting other minority-owned businesses.

“You knew that if he had work, there would be an economic benefit to people of color,” said John B. Cruz III, president and CEO of The Cruz Companies. “He definitely understood that for black people, the way out of their problems was through empowerment and building wealth.”

Self-reliance

Guscott often credited his mother, Rubina Guscott, with instilling in him an ethic of black self-reliance. He named the Grove Hall building housing Long Bay’s main office after her.

“He had the most minority hires, not only with construction workers, but also in terms of subcontractors, architects, suppliers and other professionals,” said Dudley Square Main Streets Director Joyce Stanley, a former city Public Facilities Department staffer. “His projects were always at least 80 percent minority workers and services. He didn’t just talk about minority hiring. He made it happen.”

Guscott was widely credited with spearheading the One Lincoln building, a financial district skyscraper built by a team of black, Chinese and Latino developers. The team completed the building in 2003 and sold it to State Street Bank.

That same year, Guscott sold off a portion of Long Bay’s portfolio to a team of black entrepreneurs and property management professionals who formed United Housing Management.

Guscott’s most recent project, a planned 25-story residential and office tower on property he owned in Dudley Square, is still in the works.

“Ken Guscott was a shining prince of Roxbury,” said City Councilor Tito Jackson. “He showed us all how to be proud, how to lead and how to pay it forward. He is the most significant figure in the development of the community in my lifetime.”

Roxbury boy

The descendant of Jamaican immigrants, Guscott was raised on Shawmut Avenue in Roxbury. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II before attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where he earned a degree in marine engineering.

Upon returning to Boston, Guscott became involved in the city’s civic life.

He served as president of the board of Action for Boston Community Development,, was a president of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, served as a Class C Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a vice president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and was a former director of both the Provident institution for Savings in the Town of Boston and Unity Bank and Trust Company.

“I am shocked and saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of Ken Guscott,” said Mayor Martin Walsh in a press statement. “Ken served Boston and its people in so many ways — as a veteran, an advocate and a lifelong builder of a better city. His vision for Dudley Square and the transformation of Roxbury was bright and vibrant, and he pushed every day to create jobs, support business development and bring greater opportunity to the neighborhood. Boston has lost a true leader, and we will continue to work together to bring progress to all our neighborhoods in his memory.”

He is survived by his wife Valerie, brother Cecil, four daughters — including Lisa Guscott, who heads Long Bay Management’s commercial division — and a son.

Also killed in the fire was Guscott’s father-in-law, Leroy Whitmore, 87.