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Shawmut firm selected to rebuild Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square

Posted by Your Town  March 13, 2012 03:51 PM

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Shawmut Design and Construction has been selected as manager of the reconstruction of the long-vacant Ferdinand Building in the heart of Dudley Square, and has pledged to work with a minority contractors' association to ensure minority participation.

At a recent meeting of the Dudley Vision Advisory Task Force, Joseph Mulligan, deputy director of the city's Property & Construction Management Department, said Shawmut was selected over three other companies that submitted proposals because of its professional capacity, costs and relevant experience. He said community concerns about minority participation and other aspects of the project would be addressed.

The Ferdinand Building, vacant for more than 30 years, will serve as the new headquarters of the Boston Public Schools, with retail shops planned for the first floor. The building is part of the city’s Dudley Vision project, which also includes upgrades to the B-2 police station and development of nearby parcels. The city formally broke ground on the project earlier this month.

Thomas Goemaat, CEO of Shawmut, said the company would work to alleviate community concerns about disruption during the Ferdinand project. He said the company would develop a mitigation plan, with community input, to minimize traffic disruption, dust and noise.

He also said Shawmut would work with the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association, which aims to boost business opportunities for minorities.

“It’s valuable, so we’re partnering with MMCA in this venture," he said. "We’ve started reaching out. We are not going to take steps without talking to people in the community.”

Some residents had expressed concerns that construction would not provide jobs for minorities or residents of the neighborhood.

Jesse Jeter, president of the MMCA, said the group hasn’t yet agreed to a partnership, but has talked to Shawmut about the idea. Jeter said the MMCA has worked with Shawmut before and anticipates a positive relationship for the Ferdinand Building.

“We’re very happy that Shawmut was selected,” he said. "They have expressed a desire to work with local minorities and businesses.”

Shawmut projects include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum addition, the African Meeting House restoration, the Greater Boston Elder Services residential building and the Codman Square Health Center expansion.

Tyree Ware, an intern at Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) in Dudley Square, said pollution from diesel emissions is a key concern. He said ACE is targeting pollution in Roxbury -- a high-traffic area where residents suffer from a high rate of asthma -- through legislative advocacy and other efforts.

Mulligan said the city is aware of the need for diesel emissions control and is working with Shawmut to come up with a monitoring plan.

Some residents said they were relieved that reconstruction of the building was finally moving forward.

“Choosing Shawmut is the decision that gives me hope that this will be a positive project," said Donovan Walker, a task force member. "I’ve watched them for the past 20 years -- they come with a track record of concern about the community. My concern is, will the city hear our concerns and take the necessary steps to meet them?”

Walker said he hopes the city will support the inclusion of local businesses in the retail space.

“We in the community want to put our businesses in there before everybody else. We want a fair and equal opportunity to go after the space,” he said. “The city has to be willing to invest in local businesses in Dudley.”

City officials said leasing of the retail space will be handled through a request for proposals, once the project has advanced.

Valerie Shelley has lived in the Dudley community for 63 years and said her father bought furniture from the old Ferdinand’s store when she was a child. She appealed to the city to reach out to residents of the area as the project progresses.

“It’s been an eyesore for the area, and I found out about the reconstruction because I’m on the Orchard Park board and I’m nosey," she said.

Mulligan said the city is committed to involving residents, through social media and other means. "This is Dudley's 'Big Dig,'" he said. "We want to work with you."

This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Myeshia Henderson, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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