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Posted on April 19, 2022
An unprecedented initiative by the Massachusetts Port Authority to give women and minority developers, architects and engineers, contractors and investors access to high-profile development projects has been named recipient of the 2022 Lewis Howard Latimer Award by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM).
The initiative resulted in the construction of the $550 million Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport in 2018-2021 by one of the most diverse groups of builders and developers in the city’s history. The project became so successful that it has been dubbed “the Massport Model,” which has subsequently been implemented by Massport on two additional development projects and by other entities throughout Massachusetts.
The AIM Latimer Award is presented annually to a Massachusetts innovator, organization or business leader who has broken barriers to innovate and create economic opportunity. The award honors Lewis Latimer, a Chelsea-born Black inventor who in 1882 patented a method for the production of carbon filaments critical to the development of the electric light bulb.
The child of former slaves, Mr. Latimer also drafted the drawings that allowed Alexander Graham Bell to receive a patent for the telephone.
AIM will present the award virtually at its 2022 Annual Meeting May 6 at 9 am.
“The 3,400 member companies of AIM are delighted to honor Massport and its development partners for a truly inspiring project and innovative approach to real estate development that reflects the full variety of people and businesses in Massachusetts,” said John R. Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.
“The Massport Model has set a new standard for diversity and equity in real estate development. From engineering and investment through construction and operations, companies owned by women and people of color are finally part of the success that major projects like the Omni Hotel represent.”
Massport implemented its policy in 2014 with the release of the request for proposals that led to the Omni Hotel at the Seaport. Rather than dictating diversity requirements in its development bid process, the agency set performance on diversity, equity and inclusion as one of four equally-weighted selection criteria on par with the financial return to Massport, the team’s ability to execute, and the strength of the project design and program.
These performance standards drove development teams to compete on diversity, equity and inclusion as they would on the other criteria. Massport’s stated goal was to achieve diversity throughout the project team and through all project phases, including development and financing, design and construction, and operations and leasing. Massport received six bids and awarded the site to a joint venture between Omni Hotels & Resorts and New Boston Hospitality.
“In some ways, this really is a miracle,” Governor Charlie Baker said at the Omni’s grand opening.
“It’s a miracle of collaboration, it’s a miracle of planning, and it’s a miracle of perseverance, determination, and diligence to get it done.”
AIM selects Latimer Award honorees based upon several factors, including:
Lewis Latimer spent much of his boyhood working with his father, who eventually had to separate himself from his family for safety reasons after the Dredd Scott decision required individual slaves to prove they had the consent of their owner in order to legally become free. Lewis forged a long career as an inventor and draftsman, culminating in his hiring at the Edison Electric Company, where he served as an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights.
The inaugural Lewis Latimer Award in 2021 went to the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund.