In the Community

Cleveland Museum of Art’s expansion project relies on diverse construction team

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s $350 million expansion and renovation is a showcase – not only for innovative architecture and design, but for the museum’s commitment to diversity. The museum’s inclusion plan for the construction project resulted in millions of dollars of work going to minority business enterprises (MBEs) and female business enterprises (FBEs). Throughout the project, more than 65 MBEs and FBEs performed services.

“Our mission states that CMA exists ‘for the benefit of all the people forever,’ and one way the museum’s leadership has shown its commitment to this principle is by structuring efforts to increase diversity in and around the museum,” said Sharon Reaves, the museum’s director of human resources. “Minority representation through MBE and FBE contractors, subs, and suppliers during our expansion is a clear example of this commitment.”

The Port of Cleveland shares that commitment to inclusion, and also helped to finance the expansion by providing more than $160 million in bonds.

The results of the museum’s inclusion efforts are clear and tangible. Consider the story of AKA Construction Management Team, Inc., an MBE/ FBE business.  Owned and operated by Ariane Kirkpatrick.  The AKA Team provided safety and site maintenance, emergency cleanups, and final cleaning. The museum’s expansion was the company’s first contract, said Kirkpatrick, who had previously been involved in a similar family business.  “It was a mammoth project to kick off a business, but it really set The AKA Team on the path to success,” she said.

The three employees (including Kirkpatrick) that The AKA Team had when the museum work began in November 2009 grew in three years to 16 full-time and 20 part-time employees.  “I really credit the museum job with kick-starting my business and helping me make key connections,” Kirkpatrick said.

To achieve its agenda for inclusion, the museum established a diversity advisory group and set clear goals for contractors to meet. For example, during the second phase of the expansion – which included demolition of outdated structures and construction of new administrative offices, the West Wing of galleries, and a central atrium – the museum aimed to have MBEs perform 20 percent of all subcontracts, and FBEs 7 percent. It then exceeded both goals by 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively.           

“What made the difference was persistence and dedication to meeting our goals combined with upfront and clear communication of those expectations to our contractors,” said Ed Bauer, CMA’s treasurer.  “We had regular meetings with our contractors to track their progress on inclusion and kept pushing them to meet goals, and we ended up exceeding them.”  Bauer also praised the two construction managers, Panzica Construction Co. and Gilbane Inc., for embracing the museum’s inclusion agenda and working hand-in-hand with the museum to make it happen. 

Bauer cited the museum’s decision to engage a diversity consultant, APB & Associates, as another factor in the success of its inclusion efforts.  APB helped the museum discover smaller, well qualified MBEs and FBEs. “We knew the major players, but APB was able to get us to that next level of entrepreneurs,” said Bauer.  “We also did a number of outreach meetings to help broaden our reach and get the word out that CMA was pushing to be inclusive, and that resulted in a greater pool of subcontractors coming forward.”           

The AKA Team’s Kirkpatrick appreciated that she was regularly invited to project manager and contractor progress meetings, and always made sure to attend.  “I was able to leverage the relationships I established on that job into a half dozen others,” she said. “It was important for getting the job at hand done well, but it was also an unbeatable networking opportunity,” she explained. 

The museum’s commitment and successful inclusion efforts went beyond awarding contracts. “There was a high number of minority and female union tradespeople working on the project as well, not just owning the businesses” said Andre Bryan, president of APB.  “And many workers came from neighborhoods surrounding the museum.” 

The Port has similar inclusion goals of having 20 percent of eligible construction contracts on any project awarded to certified MBEs and FBEs, resulting in more than $128 million in work going to such firms currently engaged on projects. 

“Our partners in Port financed projects, such as the borrower and their contractors, have demonstrated a strong commitment to inclusion that has routinely exceeded expectations,” said Brent Leslie, the Port’s chief financial officer. “The Port is currently working to enhance our inclusion policy to further accelerate opportunities for minority and female owned businesses.” 

Kirkpatrick was proud to have been part of the project, and appreciated the museum’s diversity efforts.  “It was great for business, but it was also a special project to work on,” she said. “I grew up nearby, and my mother took my sister and me to art lessons there, so the museum has always been a part of me.  I’m proud that now I can say I helped make it an even more beautiful place to enjoy.”

 

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