Malcolm X College construction to include local residents and black architect
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com April 17, 2013 12:36PM
Updated: April 17, 2013 4:25PM
Chicago’s new $251 million Malcolm X College will be designed by a black architect — and 12.6 percent of the 950 construction jobs will be earmarked for community residents — under a hiring preference disclosed Wednesday that was not enough to satisfy a protest leader.
Retired Soft Sheen Products founder Ed Gardner credited Mayor Rahm Emanuel for “moving in the right direction” to ease widespread “suffering” in the black community that Gardner has argued fuels drug dealing and other crimes.
But Gardner said it’ll take a lot more than 120 construction jobs, 50 free slots in construction training programs at Dawson Technical Institute and a black architect designing the new Malcolm X to reduce the 18 percent unemployment rate plaguing African-American neighborhoods besieged by gang violence.
“If he’s creating 10 jobs, I’d like to see at least five of those jobs created in that community because the need in that community is so great,” said Gardner, 88.
“He’s moving in the right direction. I’m just concerned we get the maximum amount of people employed from any project like this. I want at least 50 percent of anything the city has put forth — and it’s gonna be in that community that needs it so much.”
At a news conference Wednesday in the library at Malcolm X, Emanuel argued that the training program is key to rectifying, what he called a “skills shortage” that prevents many minorities from working in the building trades.
Moody Nolan, the nation’s largest African-American architectural firm, will serve as “architect of record” for the new Malcolm X to be built at Jackson and Damen on, what is now a surface parking lot for the old college.
“There’s about 1,000 jobs in the building trades for this project alone. What we are doing is not only designating that 12 percent will go to community residents. We’re planning ahead by saying, `If you want that and you don’t have the skills, we’re gonna make sure you can go to community colleges and get those skills,’ ’’ the mayor said.
“There’s a skills shortage. We know that. So, we want to get ahead of that curve and say, `Okay, we’re gonna train you if you want to do bricklaying, if you want to do carpentry, if you want to do electrical work, if you want to do plumbing and pipe-fitting. So, we are getting ahead and making sure people have the skills and capacity if they don’t have them today.”
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose ward includes Malcolm X, called the jobs-for-local residents promise a “big deal” for the West Side and “only fitting” for a college named after Malcolm X.
“It’s also great that they’re giving the people in the community an opportunity to learn how to fish — not giving them a fish,” Burnett said.
“Putting them through the Dawson Technical Institute is very important so they can sustain themselves even after this development is done. The mayor has committed to invest a lot of things in the Near West Side. I call the Near West Side the next frontier. This is where all development is getting ready to happen.”
City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman added, “This project is a win for the Chicago business community, a win for the neighborhood I still call home. And most importantly, a win for our students and their future.”
In February, 2012, Emanuel announced plans to build a new $251 million Malcolm X and 1,500-space parking garage in the shadows of the United Center to create a state of the art facility to train students for the 84,000 Chicago area jobs expected to be created in the health care industry over the next eight years.
The new college is expected to open in January, 2016. It’s part of a five-year, $524 million capital plan that includes upgrades to Harold Washington, Daley, Olive-Harvey, Wright and Truman Colleges.
The plan will be bankrolled by a mix of bonds, capital reserves, operating funds and $8 million in funds generated by the surrounding tax-increment financing district.
Last fall, Gardner put Emanuel on the political hot seat by leading a series of demonstrations that got progressively larger to protest a shortage of blacks on city construction jobs.
Emanuel is obviously determined to avoid an ugly repeat. But he has yet to satisfy Gardner’s demand for a 50 percent share of every major construction project.
Last week, Gardner showed up at a meeting of the Emanuel-chaired Public Building Commission to demand that black contractors be guaranteed at least 50 percent of the work to ready Chicago Public Schools to receive displaced students because African-American students and neighborhoods will bear the brunt of the 53 elementary school closings.