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Date: May 7, 2009
Byline: Bob Shipman

President’s House Commemorative Site Information Meeting for Construction Opportunities was the proposed agenda.

The outcome of this meeting seems as historic as the project it self. D. J. Keating withdrew his bid to do the job in lieu of objections from the sub and general contractors in attendance.

The City of Philadelphia was set host a public information session for minority, women and disabled firms and minority and female building tradespeople interested in work on the historic President's House site. The President's House project is a permanent, outdoor commemorative installation, to be placed on the footprint of the President's House, immediately adjacent to the Liberty Bell Center. Through architecture, landscaping, imagery and interpretive text, this installation will tell the story of the birth of a free nation and indefensible slavery existing side-by-side.

Construction work was scheduled to begin on or about May 25, 2009. The projected end date for construction work was March 2010. The project's construction budget is $3.5 million. Kelly/Maiello Architects and Planners along with D. J. Keating Co. were supposed to provide project details.

About 45 minutes into the presentation a member of the audience asked a question of the presenter Emanuel Kelly. "the first to firms hired was black, my firm and Kelly/Maiello, Architects and Planners," said Rosalyn J. McPherson President of the Roz Group.

One by one, then two by two questions started flying from the floor. The group was made up of a diverse crowd. many came straight to the presentation after leaving other work sites. A clear survey of the audience and the speakers would show men and women, white and black saying versions of the same thing. That they were shut out of the bidding. After some harsh words and firm commitments that the work on the site will not be completed by a white firm. The stats that was read about the conditions in the construction area proved the group had a right to be mad.

Many of the group new the federal law stating that the work on federal projects under 25 million dollars did not have to be completed by union crews.also read into the record was the fact that 97 % of the jobs in the field in Philadelphia was held by white workers and 80% of them do not live in the city of Philadelphia.

At that juncture D.J.Keating stood up and was handed the microphone. he calmly stated that he had no problem asking the city to release his firm from the contract and he and 5 members of his team departed the auditorium.

The historic significance of this project is great. While enslaved persons of African descent toiled in the construction of our nation's capitol as envisioned and planned by George Washington, free Blacks in Philadelphia were actively engaged in the traditional building trades of carpentry, masonry and plastering. In acknowledgement of this history and in furtherance of City policies of fairness and equity, the City of Philadelphia, as project owner, is committed to ensuring that businesses owned and controlled by minority persons, women and the disabled and minority and women tradespeople are given fair opportunity to participate in this project.

The original President's House will not be rebuilt; construction encompasses excavation of the 12,000 square foot area, concrete paving, specialty metal fabrication, electrification and erection of video screens, and landscaping. Design and construction of the project has been awarded to Kelly/Maiello Architects and Planners and D. J. Keating Co. Now the Project Team will solicit bids for the following:

The soothing voice of ESQ Michael Coard was able to keep the meeting as orderly as possible, the group was passionate about this issue.

The RozGroup had forms handed to each attendee while registering. The forms outlined what was needed and asked the sub and general contractors to check off what they were qualified to do. The general feeling was that this project has special significance to the African American labors and families across the nation. Imagine a project coming out of Philadelphia that has a national reputation as a unfair labor region. "I am so tired of driving in and around the city with my children and we never seeing any blacks on the jobs in our communities." Mr. Johnson repeated.

At that point Clarence D. Armbrister, Mayor Nutter's chief of staff chimed in. Mr. Armbrister said that he cannot comment on Mr. Keating decisions in his absence nor could he explain what happened in the past. he explained to the group that the prior administration was committed and former chief of staff under Mayor Street was Joyce Wilkerson. He assured the group that going forward everything will be above board and handled in a professional manner.

The meeting was scheduled from 6pm to 8pm, Community College of Philadelphia, Bonnell Building (17th Street at Spring Garden)


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