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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: July 31, 2009
Byline: Stephan Salisbury

President's House construction set to begin

After several last-minute delays, construction of the President's House memorial on Independence Mall is about to begin, according to city and Independence National Historical Park officials.

Fencing will go up next week around the site, at Sixth and Market Streets, and the viewing platform — from which more than 300,000 visitors watched the archaeological excavation of the house during the spring and summer of 2007 — will be taken down, officials said this week.

The city, which has been managing design and building of the $8.5 million project, plans an Aug. 19 news conference to discuss formal efforts to bring minority contractors into the project.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at that time, officials said.

The memorial, designed by Kelly/Maiello Architects & Planners, will commemorate the site where Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived and worked during the 1790s, and where Washington held nine enslaved Africans.

In 2002, amid controversy over Independence Park's refusal to acknowledge slavery at the very doorstep of the new Liberty Bell Center, Congress directed the National Park Service "to appropriately commemorate" those held in bondage at the site by Washington.

Community groups have raised concerns about minority participation in all aspects of the memorial project since its inception. City officials say they share those concerns and have encouraged minority bids.

Rosalyn McPherson, who oversees the project for the city, said the Nutter administration had pushed the issue hard. In an interview this week, she said minority participation in construction would be significant.

Several officials said more than half the firms working on the project would be minority-owned. (Each of the officials requested anonymity because the exact level of minority participation has not been determined.) They also noted that the project was small, employing perhaps 50 workers over 10 or 12 months.

City officials have said they hope to celebrate the opening of the memorial — the federal government's first commemoration of enslaved Africans — by the Fourth of July.

Emanuel Kelly, principal of Kelly/Maiello, called that date "realistic if no unforeseens occur."

 

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