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September 20, 2022

All active construction projects receiving City of Worcester tax breaks are falling short of diversity hiring goals

Photo | Timothy Doyle Work continues at Wood Partners' Alta on the Row, a 371-unit housing complex at the former location of Mount Carmel Church in Worcester.

The active Worcester construction projects benefiting from the City of Worcester’s tax break program are falling short of their goals in hiring city residents, people of color, and women, according to a report by Worcester's Executive Office of Economic Development.

Among projects that have started construction listed in the City of Worcester’s Semi-annual Tax Increment Financing / Tax Increment Exception Report, none meet the goals set for percentage of Worcester residents or people of color, and only Fontaine-Dimeo LLC’s Doherty Memorial High School project meets the goal for women at the job site.

Doherty High is not a TIF/TIE project, but receives support from the Executive Office of Economic Development based on recommendations from the Construction Diversity Monitoring Committee.

Other construction projects that have not begun, but will be tracked are The Cove, a mixed-use project on Green Street in the Canal District; a hotel project in Washington Square near Union Station; a renovation of an office building at 340 Main St. into housing; and renovation of Mission Chapel on Summer Street into housing.

According to goals set by the city, Worcester residents should make up 50% of the workforce on these projects, except at Doherty High where the goal is 25%. People of color should make up 38% of the workforce, and women, 10%. The goals are part of participation in the TIF/TIE program, where the owners of the various projects received reduced tax bills based on the increased value their developments brought to the properties.

Failure to meet the goals typically hasn’t resulted in any significant action by the City to reduce or eliminate the tax break, although the City Council in June asked the acting city manager to explore harsher penalties after the 228-unit residential building under construction near to the $160-million Polar Park baseball stadium failed to meet its hiring goals.

The City’s Executive Office of Economic Development releases a bi-annual report on the status of all TIF/TIE projects, currently benefiting from the program. The report will be presented to the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.

Of the four projects in the program under construction, WuXi Biologics’ new building at The Reactory biomanufacturing park was 11% complete as of July 31. Worcester residents make up 8% of its workforce, up from 2% in January. People of color make up 28% of its workforce, up from 6% in January. Women make up 6% of the workforce, down from 11% in January.

Fontaine Bros. of Springfield and Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence at Doherty Memorial High School, employ 15% Worcester residents, down from 16% in January and 28% people of color, up from 23%. The percentage of women employed decreased slightly to 10%, but remains at the goal.

Liz Wambui, director of diversity, inclusion, and community impact at Fontaine Bros. told WBJ on Tuesday morning that while Fontaine is combatting the same workforce shortages that people across the industry are, the company is working with subcontractors and community partners to recruit workers from backgrounds underrepresented in the the industry. Fontaine held a career fair at Doherty High in May and has an ongoing internship program.

Atlanta-based Wood Partners’ development, Alta on the Row, at the former Mount Carmel church on Shrewsbury Street is 8% completed. Worcester residents make up 12% percent of the workforce, people of color, 14%, and women, 4%.

At the Madison Properties’ 228-unit residential project at 1 Green Island Boulevard is 24% complete, Worcester residents make up 9% of the workforce, down from 10% in January; people of color are 26%, up from 22%, and women are 2%, which is the same as in January. 

Per the City Council’s June request, the Construction Diversity Monitoring Committee has provided recommendations to the Executive Office of Economic Development and the acting city manager regarding the non-compliance status of the Madison Properties 228-unit resident project.

Messages for the three construction companies involved in the TIF/TIE projects were not returned on Tuesday morning.

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September 21, 2022

Unfortunately many large developers only care about 1 thing. Maximizing profits. Which translates to often hiring the lowest possible bidders to do the construction. The Lowest bidders always come at cost, usually to the communities they build in, as described in this article and also to the workers that build these projects by means of sub standard wages and exploitation.

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