Homewood construction realizes workforce development

By Christian Morrow – New Pittsburgh Courier

It wasn’t long ago, Black community leaders–specifically Tim Stevens and Louis “Hop” Kendrick–would frequently call the New Pittsburgh Courier to alert the paper that they had driven by a construction project in one of the city’s African-American neighborhoods and seen no Black faces on the job.

If either of them were to drive by the Homewood Station Senior Apartments project today, they’d be pleased to see anywhere from 10 to 15 Black construction workers doing rough carpentry and installing drywall.

When completed, the $11.5-million project will provide 41 new, mixed-income, one- and two-bedroom residential units at the corner of Susquehanna Street and North Homewood Avenue. The four-story building will also feature ground-floor retail space and a café.

Andy Haines, executive vice president with developer S&A Homes, said it was designed from the start to not only hire Black workers but to develop the local workforce.

“We think we’re doing this the right way–getting people to Rashad (Byrdsong) to be trained and then getting them hired by our subcontractors,” he said. “Our subs are very happy with the guys they are getting from Rashad. They’re trained, screened and reliable. And they can take the trade they’ve learned to the next job.”

And it’s not just Black tradesmen on the project, Haines said, the job has also employed several Black subcontractors including Anthony Phillips, who did demolition and site preparation, work, and Robert Coleman, who is the electrical contractor.

“We took Robert with us to State College for another job,” said Haines. “And our general contractor Poole Anderson is very happy with the people we’ve gotten including the number of Black painters on the site.”

Byrdsong’s MA’AT construction is also one of the subcontractors, which allows him take trainees who come through the Community Empowerment Association program and give them mentoring and on-site experience from the union tradesmen he employs.

“It’s all part of the holistic approach to addressing youth violence and rebuilding the community that we’ve been working on for years,” said Byrdsong. “Workforce development is critical.”

The senior building is the first phase of the development, and if all goes well, S&A will learn in the spring whether they’ve been awarded federal the tax-credit financing to proceed with phase two, which will be comprised of 35 two-, three- and four-bedroom townhouses on adjoining properties.

“They will be offered on a lease-purchase basis, where the occupants can buy the homes after 15 years and will have built up substantial equity,” said Haines. “We feel pretty confident about it. And yes, we plan to hire a lot more of these men for that work too.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority also felt confident enough about S&A’s tax credit application that  they agreed to convey an additional 11 properties to project during its November board meeting.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com)

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