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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: August 22, 2009
Byline: Stephan Salisbury

2/3 of President's House contracts to minorities, women

City officials announced yesterday that 67 percent of the subcontracts awarded for construction of the President's House memorial on Independence Mall have gone to businesses owned by minorities and women.

At a midday news conference held on a sweltering Independence Mall, just a half-block from the cleared and fenced-in memorial site, Mayor Nutter praised the hiring choices.

The President's House process, he said, could serve as a model for similar or better contracting for such firms on future projects.

"Our administration is strongly committed to doing all that we can to increase participation by minority, African American, Latino and other minorities, and women-owned businesses in both private and public construction in our city," Nutter said. "If the [construction] industry and certainly the city will follow the lead that's been demonstrated by this project, think of all the dramatic increase that we should see in minority and female participation in the construction industry — not just in the work-force, but also on the contractors' side."

That said, the President's House project unfolding in front of the Liberty Bell Center at Sixth and Market Streets is a small one. Only about 50 workers will be employed during the 13 months of construction on the 12,000-square-foot site.

Nutter said he was committed to dedicating the completed memorial next July Fourth.

The President's House will commemorate the location where George Washington and John Adams lived and conducted their presidencies in the 1790s, and where Washington held nine enslaved Africans.

The stories of those people of color, who lived and slept in bondage within the household of the first president, have captured the imaginations and the passions of city residents and of hundreds of thousands of visitors who have viewed the location and a 2007 archaeological excavation there.

Michael Coard, a founder of the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, a citizens' group that has pushed for the memorial, said the level of African American participation in construction was a start for city construction projects, but not an end. He vowed to push for similar or greater levels of participation on other projects.

Emanuel Kelly, principal of Kelly/Maiello Architects & Planners, said he had personally vetted all those hired for the President's House construction and had worked closely with Daniel J. Keating, the project's general contractor.

In addition to construction, Kelly noted that 70 percent of the contracts awarded for the design and content phase of the project had gone to minority- and women-owned firms.

Of the 15 contracts awarded for construction, five went to African American firms, one to a Latino firm, one to an Asian American firm, and six to firms owned by women.

Sacaree Rhodes, a community activist who has pushed for African American participation at the site, said yesterday that she would continue her effort to increase Philadelphia-based African American participation in this and other projects.

"I want to know who these people are, and are they going to hire black people?" Rhodes said yesterday, speaking of the subcontractors hired to build the memorial. "It's very important they get people from right here in the city."

Kelly said he met with Keating on Tuesday "to stress the importance of minority workers on the site." Keating, he said, responded positively.


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