Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Garfield Project a Landmark in City Hiring Practices

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Garfield Project a Landmark in City Hiring Practices

Article excerpt

Garfield Commons is the latest transformation of outmoded public housing into privately managed, mixed-income units, but it is not just another upgrade. It represents possibly the most ambitious adherence to minority and low-income hiring standards in the city's history.

More than seven years after the Garfield Heights 14-story high- rise slumped into an imploded heap above Mossfield Avenue, the 45- acre property that once also housed 58 three-story apartment buildings run by the Pittsburgh Housing Authority is in the final phase of new construction and almost completely leased.

The Commons -- a mixed-income community of 215 townhouses and 10 detached single-family homes on a network of streets that include Mossfield, North Aiken and Fern -- is the latest replacement of 1940s-1960s-era outposts of poverty known as the projects.

But its most notable distinction is the percentage of minority- and woman-owned businesses contracted to work on it and the number of low-income workers they hired -- more than 50, both skilled and unskilled laborers from Garfield and surrounding neighborhoods, said Tisha Germany, assistant vice president of KBK Enterprises.

In fact, the housing authority's choice of KBK to develop the property was its single largest contract to a minority-owned business. KBK owns and co-manages Garfield Commons with Wallick Properties. Both are based in Columbus, Ohio.

Michelle Jackson, the housing authority's chief community affairs officer, said 41 public housing residents worked on the construction of Garfield Commons and that, overall, the development featured the largest number of Section 3 employment in the city's history.

Under Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, companies that benefit from HUD assistance for low-income housing and community development must make "to the greatest extent feasible" hiring opportunities for low-income residents and businesses and submit compliance documents to prove they did."

Of 33 subcontractors, 21 were minority- and woman-owned businesses -- which together completed $25 million of the $100 million project, according to the housing authority.

"A lot of subcontractors don't have new hire opportunities," Ms. …

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