Jan 31, 2023 - Things to Do

Push to diversify Seaport would bring Boston's first HBCU satellite

The Seaport wasn't much more than industrial space and parking lots 30 years ago. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A proposal to build out an unused lot in the Seaport would house the first satellite of a historically Black college or university in Boston within an art gallery dedicated to Black and brown artists.

The big picture: As the state decides how to fill a coveted 6.2-acre plot connecting South Boston to the bustling Seaport, entrepreneurs want to include facilities that would entice communities of color to come to the mostly white neighborhood.

Driving the news: A 1.1-million-square-foot bid by Cronin Development would include three office and lab towers. It would also include a gallery focused on artists of color that would house design classes and job training from Pensole Lewis College, a design school based in Detroit.

Background: As the Seaport neighborhood was developed from empty parking lots to what's now considered Boston's third downtown, it followed many of the exclusionary trends present in the rest of the city.

What they're saying: The talent in communities of color in Boston isn’t matched by job opportunities, says Tavares Brewington, founder of entrepreneurial and youth advocacy organization Street2Ivy, who’s working with Cronin.

  • "When I take the kids I work with to the Seaport, although they're a mile away ... they don't see any merchants that look like them and they rarely even see anyone [of color] walking the streets," Brewington tells Axios.

To help turn around that trend, Brewington and Cronin turned to Pensole Lewis College president D’Wayne Edwards to provide classroom instruction and real-world expertise based on his career as a footwear designer.

  • Classes at the satellite would be taught by Edwards' faculty and Pensole Lewis alumni already working in major footwear companies in the area.

Students would be taught topics like supply chain management, physical sampling and prototyping, digital engineering and design — all disciplines involved in footwear prototyping and manufacturing.

  • Edwards tells Axios the skills taught at the satellite school would be directly related to jobs at a New Hampshire factory he's partnered with, and graduates could find jobs there.

Liza Quinonez from the street-art-focused agency Street Theory told Axios the art gallery is the center of the cultural mission of the bid and would bring vibrancy and soul to the developing Seaport.

  • "The exhibition space is where we'll have the opportunity to showcase Black and brown artists, Black and brown designers," and help them become career artists and designers, Quinonez said.

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