Minority-owned Bowa Construction to build $212 million Fulton Market tower

900 randolph
900 Randolf (Related Midwest)

Bowa Construction has been selected by Related Midwest to build a $212 million, 43-story apartment tower in the Fulton Market District.

The developer asserts that this is the first time a minority-owned firm has been selected to lead construction of a Chicago highrise, Crain’s Chicago Business reports, adding that it hasn’t been able to verify if the claim is true.

Regardless, it is a significant achievement for Bowa, reaching a market position more commonly associated with large general contractors such as Walsh Group and James McHugh Construction.

“I think it is a message to everyone that the next building can be built this way, too,” Related Midwest President Curt Bailey told Crain’s, describing the partnership with Bowa. “If we can do it, everyone can do it.”

Bowa is co-managing the 900 Randolph, 300-unit project with LR Contracting, Related Midwest’s in-house construction division.

Bowa president and CEO Nosa Ehimwenman founded the company in 2009. The contractor has completed about $400 million of work over the past five years and now employs about 60 construction professionals, Ehimwenman told the business publication.

While minority contractors get work on high-profile developments, the status is often to meet municipal set-aside requirements. “Developers that need a zoning change or other city benefits for a project must set aside 26% of the work for minority-owned businesses and 6% for women-owned businesses,” Crain’s reported.

Developers do it to check a box, but many aren’t really committed to giving the companies real responsibility so they can win business without government help, Ehimwenman was quoted as saying.

Bailey and Ehimwenman describe the arrangement as a true partnership.

Related Midwest says the Illinois Housing Development Authority is co-ordinating construction financing of $130 million through Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America, financing. Related Midwest and its joint venture partner, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, are also investing $82 million of equity in the project.

“It’s historic that Bowa has been chosen,” Tom Cuculich, executive director of Chicagoland Associated General Contractors (CAGC), told Crain’s. Bowa is a CAGC member. “It’s a very high-profile project in a very high-profile part of town.”

Overall, minority-owned businesses will account for 32% of the subcontracting work on 900 Randolph, while women-owned businesses will account for 9%.


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