Obama Foundation seeks diversity in four RFP invitations to construction management teams for Obama Presidential Center

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obama presidential center rendering
Conceptual rendering from The Obama Foundation

The Obama Foundation has issued a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) to four teams competing to be the Obama Presidential Center’s (OPC) construction manager.

The foundation says the RFP guidelines highlight its”commitment to fostering inclusion and promoting diversity, as well as creating meaningful opportunities and jobs for local businesses, community members, and underrepresented communities in the South Side and throughout Chicago.”

The shortlist finalist teams include:

The Obama Foundation says it is asking its construction manager candidates to commit to awarding 50 percent or more of its subcontracts to “diverse suppliers”, which in addition to minority (MBEs) and women business enterprises (WBEs) includes businesses owned by veterans, individuals with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals. The foundation is requiring that no less than 35 percent of the OPC’s subcontracts to MBE firms. With these aggressive goals, the foundation says it hopes “to set a new precedent for diversity and inclusion in major construction projects in Chicago and beyond.”

In addition to contracting practices, the RFP also asks bidding firms to detail new and innovative approaches to maximize diverse participation among the OPC workforce, particularly from underserved communities on the South and West Sides of Chicago, including Woodlawn, South Shore and Washington Park.

Candidates are asked to provide not only job recruitment, but also job retention strategies, a sometimes-overlooked element in maintaining diverse workforces. “Competing firms will be asked to detail how they plan to work with labor unions to increase the pipeline of talent among underrepresented groups,” the foundation statement said. “Competing firms are also being asked to think specifically about engagement among under-employed populations including ex-offenders and minority youth.”

The foundation says it is further requiring bidding teams to submit a significant amount of detail to demonstrate how the team’s own best practices align with its mission of civic engagement and commitment to diversity in hiring. The construction management candidates will also be required to provide:

  • Detailed spending history with diverse suppliers, including past construction projects and operational spending (e.g. vendors for legal, advertising, communications, banking, etc.);
  • Breakdown of past philanthropic spending, including those firm’s contributions to educational, environmental and civil rights causes; and
  • Make-up of the board of each firm and diversity goals for current internal hiring practices.

“The Obamas chose to develop the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side to give back to the community that has given so much to them,” Obama Foundation CEO David Simas said in a statement. “With this RFP, the Foundation has established significant and aggressive goals for diversity and inclusion.

“We are committed to creating meaningful opportunities and jobs for local businesses, community members, and underrepresented communities in the South Side and throughout Chicago, and using our platform to pioneer new approaches to engaging minority populations in the construction industry to provide not just short-term jobs, but long-term professional opportunities.”

“We thank everyone who responded to our RFQ and congratulate the four teams on making it to the final stage of consideration,” said Roark Frankel, director of planning and construction for the Obama Foundation. “We have set high standards for our finalists to meet – from contracting, to detailing who they will employ, and to the innovative hiring programs they will develop for young people. While we recognize that our goals are ambitious, we also believe that change cannot happen without setting the bar high.”

The Aug. 31 RFP announcement comes after the Obama Foundation issued an open Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in June 2017 to firms interested in the construction manager position.

While construction is not slated to begin until late 2018, the construction manager is expected to join the project team before year’s end to provide pre-construction services such as cost estimating, constructability review(s), value engineering, and logistics planning during the project’s remaining design phases.

Firms will also be asked to include information to be considered to perform all of the construction services for the OPC.

“They will join a diverse team that demonstrates the Obama Foundation’s commitment to including local, minority firms in the development and construction of the Obama Presidential Center, including Interactive Design Architects, McKissack & McKissack, Ardmore Associates and many more,” the foundation statement said. “To ensure that the work of the foundation is informed by a diverse set of viewpoints and is in line with its values of diversity and inclusion, the Obama Foundation announced the formation of an Inclusion Council in October 2016”.

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