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Co-Located Facilities Serving Community Needs

At MCN Build, we are dedicated to serving our community with sustainable projects that benefit a shared commitment to something bigger than ourselves.  As the District continues to grow, the need for co-located project facilities is rising.

The KIPP Highlands Campus – where MCN Build is constructing a new state-of-the-art high school and renovating the recreation center and shared community spaces, with design partner Studio TwentySeven Architecture (S27) – is the perfect example of how co-located educational and recreation facilities can serve the surrounding community.

KIPP DC currently consists of 18 public charter schools located at seven different campuses throughout DC, educating more than 6,500 students in the local community. They first seek to understand the needs of an area, specifically focusing on underserved communities. Ward 8 has been historically underserved, both in terms of neighborhood amenities and access to education. Community stakeholders identified and discussed locations for a potential new facility.

In 2019, KIPP DC proposed a community center redevelopment project that included a DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) community center, which would be open to the local community, as well as utilizing a portion of the site to develop a new high school facility. This facility would also provide shared spaces for department programming such as adult education and workforce training.

In 2020, Mayor Bowser announced that KIPP DC had been awarded the Ferebee-Hope site in Ward 8 for the permanent home for a second KIPP DC high school. The proposed new 110,000 SF state-of-the-art high school would include a baseball diamond, a full multisport field with a track, and a community garden. The school would provide a high-quality educational program, meeting the needs of the District’s students and families.

The new 20,000 SF community recreation center was envisioned to serve as an asset for the surrounding community and the District. The community recreation center (operated by the DPR) includes an adjacent 4,000 SF partner space, basketball court, technology lounge, multi-purpose room, swimming pool, and parking.

This proposed co-located facility would be a first-of-its-kind community campus that promotes educational excellence, wellness, and lifelong learning.

As part of KIPP DC’s commitment to promoting lifelong learning and educational opportunities for residents of all ages, partner spaces and facilities are located adjacent to the recreation center. These spaces are envisioned to house high-quality community-based partner organizations, allow space for community meetings, and provide adult education opportunities for job training programs. The goal is to develop true meaningful partnerships and connections between the surrounding community and KIPP DC.

The co-location of programs and facilities truly benefits Ward 8 residents, the District, and KIPP DC. The school development meets KIPP DC’s programmatic needs, the District retains an asset that is fully renovated and well maintained, and the residents of Ward 8 receive a completely renovated recreation center where they have input on the programming, access to adult education, and a high performing high school option for their children.

Our community engagement began at the very start of the project. We met with the surrounding community, listened to their needs, and created a forum for discussion. The KIPP Highlands community was extremely invested and involved in the future of their neighborhood, and through these community meetings, we were able to learn a lot about the needs and goals of the project. Through a collaborative process, the final design was sculpted.

The project broke ground in January 2021, and the recreation center was delivered in August 2021, followed by the High School which was delivered in December 2021. The baseball field, playground, and community garden are slated to deliver in February 2022, followed by the football field and community center, with the entire project set to complete this summer. Our previous experience with DPR and S27 allowed us to navigate challenges that would potentially arise on a fast-track project such as the KIPP Highlands Campus.

A major advantage of a co-located facility such as the KIPP Highlands Campus is shared amenity access. The multipurpose field, track, outdoor basketball court, baseball diamond, playground, and parking are considered shared amenities, allowing each facility to access more program space than if created independently. The multipurpose field and track are used by KIPP DC during school hours and by the community on the weekends and after school hours.

The open design for the new Highlands Campus creates visual corridors and connections between the facilities and programs, inviting all neighborhood residents to actively use the facilities, and providing opportunities for multi-generational gatherings. We believe this truly benefits all of the residents of Ward 8.

The Highlands Campus will be an asset to the surrounding community. In co-locating DPR’s recreation center, the KIPP DC high school, and community-based spaces, the campus creates a much-need hub for the multi-generational residents and community.

Engaging Stakeholders

When delivering projects to clients in the construction industry, we spend millions, even billions of dollars every day, to fulfill our clients’ contract requirements. What are some things that we, as the General Contractor, care about the most while delivering these projects? We care about the scope of work that we’ve been asked to do. We care about the budget and how we’re going to execute this project. Do we have the right resources? Do we have the proper labor and materials? We care about quality and schedule. We care about inherent risks to the project and how much it’s going to cost. Is it going to match the budget? And of course, communication is the key to a successful project. We focus on these items quite frankly because it’s our contractual requirement; we’re bound by it. It’s also what we were trained to do. It’s what we know. And we want to make a profit. In 2020 across the U.S., projects in the construction industry involved 680,000 employers, 7 million workers, resulting in $1.3 trillion spent in the built environment (Bokum).

The construction industry has a major impact on the economy, and we believe those same projects can have an even greater impact on our communities and improve people’s lives. In addition to our contractual requirements, we must understand the typical landscape of stakeholders directly impacting the success of our projects. Of course, the client and end-users are the main key stakeholders, but the design team and the builder are stakeholders as well. Additional stakeholders include various government agencies for approvals like the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Historic Preservation Office and the permitting agencies. We have to coordinate with public utilities such as Washington Gas, DC Water, WSSC Water, Pepco, Verizon, etc. We recognize some neighborhood commissions also have an impact on our projects. All of these entities are typical stakeholders we consider on capital projects.

Communication is vital on all projects. Not only communication within our team and our clients, but communication externally with the stakeholders is crucial to project success. Our direct project stakeholders are easy to identify and manage; you must engage and collaborate with them. Typically, we manage projects focused on contractual concerns and direct stakeholder requirements, but indirect stakeholders can also impact your project. Some of those indirect stakeholders can include:

  • Adjacent property owners
  • Community associations
  • Future workers
  • Everyday citizens
  • Jurisdictions; city and state

Engaging indirect stakeholders is an overlooked and essential element to project success. It maximizes community buy-in, which will increase the project’s chances of sustainable success. Also, while building in a specific community, it is important to use resource mapping. It’s a straightforward tool and easy to implement. Utilizing resource mapping helps to identify who and what resources are in the surrounding neighborhood of the project, providing opportunities for other trade contractors and builders beyond your typical go-to firms.

MCN Foundation recently built a digital library in San Salvador, El Salvador, and you may ask, what’s the link between Washington, D.C., and El Salvador?

The majority of the construction workforce in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area is of Salvadoran descent. An unintentional benefit of the digital library project was the increased motivation within the workers because they realized the work they are doing in D.C. is creating funds to build a library in their country. The paycheck they are earning goes beyond their work on the D.C. construction site! They’re working for a company that is building something in their home community. After hearing many voices, the input we received directed us to the lack of safe spaces for the local San Salvador community to go and access high-speed Internet. With this understanding, MCN identified community partners and government officials to help us build this digital library project.

Thinking beyond the direct stakeholders doesn’t always have to be as complex as building a physical structure. While building an affordable housing project in the District, we decided to sponsor several events we knew the surrounding neighborhoods would enjoy. These events and people who benefitted from them had no direct relationship to our project, construction industry, or workforce development.

While managing stakeholders, one of the main items we take into account, beyond contracts and financing agreements, is economic inclusion. Some contracts involve economic inclusion efforts; these are focused on providing opportunities for groups, individuals, or businesses that have been historically left out of the process. These economic inclusion requirements are not always a mandate, but we choose to implement them anyway to create a level playing field. Creating equitable economic opportunities is one of the biggest ways we can positively impact the economic footprint of our projects and the community.

We’ve all heard about sustainability, but for most of us, when the topic is brought up, the environment comes to mind. Sustainability also considers social equity and economic vitality. Focusing on the complete picture allows us to create a thriving, healthy, diverse, and resilient community for generations to come. In addition to our typical contractual concerns, here are a few key takeaways to consider. Do the people in the surrounding areas of your projects have access to health care, equitable education, and inclusive opportunities? Are we protecting our ecosystem while delivering these projects? Are we fighting inequality and promoting a safe and peaceful society, not only around our projects but that radiates through the extended community? Are we partnering and working with various organizations in the community for cultural understanding and global solidarity? Are we focusing on prosperity for all? When we consider capital projects through this kind of lens of total sustainability, we can achieve greater results. It enables positive impact on more people, more businesses, and the greater community when we approach a capital project as a sustainable development.

Looking at things from this lens of total sustainable development, we create the potential to add hundreds of new businesses and thousands of new careers. And of course, we’ll have a healthier environment. We’ll have lasting partnerships with the community, generating millions of dollars in new tax revenues because more people are prosperous. We hope our insight on engaging and managing stakeholders has provided you with a couple of new ideas to consider as you move forward with your capital projects. Now let’s lock arms and build a better tomorrow, starting today.

Johnny Seikaly, Director of Contracts and Compliance, also contributed to this article.

Works Cited:
Bokum, Christopher. “U.S. Construction By the Numbers: Construction Statistics You Need to Know.” Levelset, Nov. 2020, https://www.levelset.com/blog/us-construction-statistics-you-need-to-know/