Creating development opportunities for underserved Chicago neighborhoods
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8 we are sharing how we #EmbraceEquity not only in the workplace but in our work. Get an inside look at how our teams are embracing equity through their projects and positively impacting the lives of women as well as underserved communities around the world.
Located on Chicago’s west side between the underserved neighborhoods of Austin and West Garfield Park, the Joint Public Safety Training Center serves as a state-of-the-art scenario-based training facility for both new recruits and in-service members of the City’s Fire and Police Departments.
The project increases the City’s ability to prepare for new and emerging threats through joint-training exercises and addresses the inadequacies of the City’s existing training facilities. This new capacity will allow first responders to receive high-quality, specialized, scenario-based training that emphasizes hands-on tactical practice in real-world situations and improve interagency collaboration in emergency response. The design, completed by AECOM Buildings+Places team, has become a catalyst for development along the Chicago Avenue corridor, including two adjacent restaurants and a Boys & Girls Club as well as efforts through INVEST South/West, a community development initiative created by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. INVEST in South/West focuses on 10 of the most underserved communities and 12 commercial corridors on the south and west sides of Chicago, bringing more than $2.2 billion in private and public investments to provide support for small businesses, restore historic buildings, create affordable housing, and foster equity and resilience in these communities. The design process engaged the local community and emphasized the concept of “transparency” – a word and idea held in high regard by the local community.
Our team worked tirelessly to ensure there was equity in the procurement and subcontracting process, resulting in nearly 50 percent of the subcontracting dollars being allocated to minority-owned and women-owned businesses. 66 people were hired locally for the project, including more than 50 percent minority community members who were hired during the construction phase.
I served as the project executive for the training center and oversaw all stages of the project including pre-construction, procurement, design-build process, project execution and close out. Early on, and throughout the construction process, our community relations manager Kendall Williamson and I worked in close collaboration with the community liaison, city officials, and the project team on efforts to maximize diverse subcontractor and workforce participation. I also attended weekly meetings with members of the community to help quell concerns and make sure every voice was heard. In the end, community members who started off as skeptics became some of the project’s biggest advocates. Additionally, the Joint Public Safety Training Center was named a finalist for the Community Impact Project of the Year for the Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards which will be announced March 9th.