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September 29, 2021 | Construction

On job sites, culture is a matter of safety

When Jayne Jackson shows up at a Chicago construction site to provide safety training, she’s not talking about the need to wear a hardhat, watch for falling objects or avoid exposure to dangerous substances. As the owner of the Emotional Maturity Institute & Training, Jackson talks to workers about how a toxic job site culture rife with discrimination directly compromises safety.

“Historically, the culture of construction has been divisive and unfriendly for minorities and women,” Jackson says. “If there’s a lack of trust because of the way people treat each other and you can’t trust the person standing behind you, how safe is your job site?”

Jackson refers to her work as professional development instead of workforce development because, she says, “professional development” implies an increase in sophistication. Her particular type of professional development is all about emotional development and helping people think about how they relate to others.

On job sites as in any work environment, a toxic culture affects everything: it harms individuals, prevents a sense of teamwork, hurts employee morale and retention and affects the ability to deliver on time and on budget.

That’s why Related Midwest partners with Jackson. The company has long been the city’s leader in inclusion, and it is again leading the way by acknowledging that job site culture is a safety issue. Related also formed the Council of Construction Operations (COCO), a group designed to change the tone, fabric and behavior of the construction ecosystem so that every worker can feel welcome and able to grow and flourish on the job. Through COCO’s Workplace Wellness Tool Box Talks, facilitators like Jackson tackle hard subjects around cultural challenges and provide a safe space for workers to craft solutions and increase their emotional awareness, intelligence and maturity.

Jackson says she’s hearing more developers and construction companies talking about this issue but too few taking action.

“It comes down to this: If you have treated me badly, am I safe with you? Are you safe with me?” Jackson says. “As usual in this space, it’s Related who gets out ahead of everybody else and does something while everybody else is just talking about it.”

It’s working. Jackson regularly hears from workshop attendees that they feel heard for the first time, or that her words inspired them to examine the way they speak to and treat others.

“I heard from a female journeyman who has been on the job for more than 15 years and she said this was the first job site where people were actually attempting to get along and consider diversity. After a presentation, another guy said, ‘You know, I’m thinking about what you’re saying and I think I should reconsider some of the ways I approach people,’” Jackson says. “It’s those moments when I know we’re onto something.”



September 9th, 2021 | Related Affordable Foundation

After School Matters Students to Add Public Art to Parkway Gardens

Teenagers living at Parkway Gardens will leave their mark this summer thanks to an upcoming onsite mural project in partnership with After School Matters. The project resulted in three colorful murals, which will soon be installed on South Martin Luther King Drive.

After School Matters’ #BeautifyYourCommunity mural program directed 10 high school students and a chaperone to create the murals collaboratively through technical skill development and teamwork, as well as providing them with trips to downtown Chicago. Art exercises conducted by program leaders in the first two weeks of the program helped teenagers gain the expertise and confidence needed to sketch, paint and complete the murals.

The three murals, titled “Positive Productivity,” were designed by local artist Erick “ROHO” Garcia to represent growth and optimism. “The silhouette of trees arranged throughout the design represent the beauty of nature,” Garcia wrote in his artistic statement, “and are symbols of individual growth as well as growth in the community.”

The Related Affordable Foundation supported the creation of “Positive Productivity” with a grant to After School Matters. After School Matters is a Chicago-based nonprofit whose mission is to help Chicago public high school students explore and develop their talents through safe and supportive activities outside of school. After School Matters programs include sports, STEM, journalism and career programming. The Related Affordable Foundation has also collaborated with After School Matters at Parkway Gardens on the Peacemakers program, which empowers Chicago students to fight violence and build community where they live by designing and carrying out service projects to meet their neighbors’ needs.

Parkway Gardens residents received a sneak preview of the murals at the End-of-Summer Celebration held on August 27. Along with the mural preview, residents enjoyed games, took advantage of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, and learned about After School Matters’ fall programs at Parkway Gardens.

The murals will be installed this fall.

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April 19th, 2021 | Chicago, IL | Residential, Luxury Rentals

Related Plus+ introduces an easy, all-inclusive way to lease an apartment

Now available at all luxury rental buildings in Chicago, Related Plus+ is a new subscription service that provides a more convenient and flexible way to lease. With one simple monthly rent payment, each well-equipped studio or one-bedroom residence has all utilities included—such as high-speed 1GB Google Webpass internet, electricity, water, gas, sewer and trash. With no more utility bills and an all-electronic leasing process, finding and maintaining an apartment is transformed into a seamless experience. Related Plus+ also provides flexible lease terms with no added costs that allow for arrangements like month-to-month or short-term lease extensions, as well as an easy transfer process to upgrade or downgrade during the lease term. Residents will also have access to Related Life, our resident-exclusive membership program, which offers perks like complimentary amenity space rentals for hosting dinner parties or enjoying nights around the fire pit.

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April 7th 2021 | Chicago, IL | Related Affordable Foundation

Chicago's After School Matters Peacemakers Program nurtures young community leaders

The Related Affordable Foundation is proud to support Peacemakers at Parkway Gardens, an After School Matters program that empowers Chicago teenagers to counter violence through positive contributions to their communities. Through Peacemakers, teens plan and carry out signature projects in their neighborhoods, ultimately building their critical thinking and collaboration skills while encouraging civic engagement.

As Peacemakers is participant-driven, students are motivated to identify their own solutions and implement them as leaders. One of these young leaders is Whitney M. Young Magnet High School Sophomore Nyla Williams.

Through the Peacemakers program, Williams gave talks about the principles of Kwanzaa and helped distribute COVID-19 safety supplies to her community. Her experience in Peacemakers has even inspired Williams to “start something of [her] own” as she looks ahead to potential careers.

“Our goal is to leave a legacy for the people who come behind us,” Williams says.

Williams adds that Peacemakers gave her the confidence to voice her opinions on community needs, and that the program helped her stay connected in a difficult season by providing a safe space to talk about current events affecting her community.

“It’s like a second family to me,” Williams said of her Peacemakers’ group. “We’re really close and we work very well together. Every day, we go around and do a check-in—we say how we’re feeling mentally and physically and how we’re doing in school.”

After School Matters launched the Peacemakers programs in the summer of 2017 in partnership with Chicago CRED. During its first summer, Peacemakers programs operated in 21 Chicago neighborhoods and served 1,100 teens.

After School Matters is a nonprofit that provides after-school and summer programs to nearly 19,000 Chicago public high school teens annually. After School Matters programs support teens in exploring their passions and developing their talents, while gaining critical skills for work, college, and beyond. After School Matters programs are project-based, led by industry experts, and provide a pathway to progress in skills development and independence. Teens earn a stipend while participating in programs in the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. Over the span of three decades, After School Matters has engaged more than 350,000 Chicago teens.

“After School Matters believes that teens' voices are essential for shaping both the present and future of our city,” said Melissa Mister, Chief Program Officer at After School Matter. “Our Peacemakers programs support teens' development as leaders and changemakers in their communities. As the pandemic has widened the opportunity gap for low-income youth of color, the Related Affordable Foundation's generous investment in our Peacemakers programs at Parkway Gardens has helped ensure that our teens continue to have equitable access to high-quality program opportunities.”

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March 23rd, 2021 | Chicago, IL | Diversity, Community, Careers

HIRE360 is paving the way for more diverse and equitable real estate and hospitality industries to benefit the Chicago community

HIRE360 is a first-of-its-kind platform with a bold mission to transform the real estate and hospitality industries from the ground up, aiming to strengthen and nurture the Chicago community now and for years to come. As underrepresented groups have historically faced higher barriers when it comes to employment and mentorship in the real estate and hospitality industries, HIRE360 aims to increase participation of minorities and women while also providing them long-term opportunities for success. The four pillars that make up the program reflect this vision to increase diversity and equity in the industry: the first pillar involves recruiting and supporting individuals interested in careers in real estate and hospitality by providing apprenticeships, access to financial assistance and job opportunity exposure; the second pillar entails working with minority- and women-owned businesses to ensure that they can bid on major development projects, access working capital loans and receive critical business support like accounting services; the third pillar focuses on youth outreach within underrepresented communities by organizing job fairs and school presentations about careers in real estate; and the fourth pillar centers on diversifying the supply chain through encouraging responsible hiring and accountability, as more than 40% of project budgets are spent on supply chain costs, and therefore represent a meaningful opportunity for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs).

The founders of HIRE360—including Related Midwest Executive Vice President Don Biernacki—understand that in order to empower the community and sustain long-term change, many voices must be involved in the process. By bringing together over 40 partners consisting of developers, general contractors, trade unions, non-profits and government agencies, HIRE360 combines real estate and hospitality expertise with deep knowledge of the local community to create long-lasting solutions to problems that these industries have faced for decades. For example, two of the biggest issues that minority- and women-led real estate businesses experience are a lack of visibility and access to capital. After the program launched in late 2019, M/WBEs received $3.5 million in funding and an additional 25 businesses secured Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans as a result of their participation in the program. While HIRE360 launched in Chicago, the Related Midwest team is currently working on expanding the framework so that it can be applied to real estate and hospitality industries in cities around the country and contribute to lasting positive social impact.

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March 15th, 2021 | Virtual | Diversity, Construction, Community

Jeff Brodsky, Yanet Garcia, Kiera Ellis participate in panel on diversity and inclusion in real estate

In partnership with international human and civil rights organization Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Jeffrey Brodsky, Kiera Ellis and Yanet Garcia from Related Midwest’s leadership team participated in a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in real estate, with a specific focus on construction and development. The Related Midwest team explored how the company is helping to transform the industry into being more inclusive, from creating a company-wide framework to working closely with local community members and organizations.

Vice Chairman Jeffrey Brodsky spoke about the company’s commitment to ensure that the benefits and results created from each project filter all the way down to the community level and help locals. To achieve this, the Related Midwest team has been developing and enacting best practices for decades offering career and wealth building opportunities and incorporating community members’ feedback in developments. Now, the team is developing a broader framework using these best practices that can be implemented by Related offices nationwide and provide benefits to more communities.

Senior Project Manager Yanet Garcia added more insights into how equity, diversity, and inclusion are being demonstrated at Related Midwest in tangible ways, especially within the contracting and hiring processes. Hire360, a platform co-founded by Related Midwest team members, provides career, business and educational resources to the Chicago community. A few of the platform’s goals are to hire from within the community, to provide ongoing career support and to help locals’ businesses access the resources they need to succeed. The program aims to help locals and their businesses become more competitive in the market and create more opportunities for communities that face higher barriers to entry. 

Director of Public Affairs Kiera Ellis discussed how the company strives to give community members a voice throughout the development process. Related Midwest’s Community Inclusion Council has brought together trade advocacy groups—such as Black Contractors United, U.S. Supplier Developers Council, and Asian Contractors United—with community leaders and business experts to advise the company on how to better implement diversity, equity and inclusion in their practices. The CIC has allowed the company to bridge the gap between the development side and community participation, providing an opportunity for locals to hold the company more accountable and to voice their opinions, which will affect the future of the industry and their city.

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