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VanHeusen Reflects on Team Diversity on 401 Congress Street Project

Sasaki associate Kate VanHeusen
Sasaki associate Kate VanHeusen

As 401 Congress Street, a new 600,000 square-foot office tower in Boston’s Seaport, finishes design development, Sasaki associate Kate VanHeusen reflects on the benefits of the diversity and inclusion requirements of the initial project proposal. The value of a diverse team has become increasingly apparent as the project enters its second year; VanHeusen finds that the project is stronger as a whole from the richness and perspectives of the well-balanced team.

As part of Massport’s partnership with Boston Global Investors (BGI), 401 Congress Street incorporated diversity and inclusion into the structure of the project agreement. In an effort to build more diverse design and construction teams, Massport asked the firms competing for the project to demonstrate how each consultant and each individual on their team would bring a unique perspective to the project.

The Sasaki design team working on 401 Congress Street is comprised of mostly women, including VanHeusen, one of the lead architectural designers on the project. “It’s an exciting change in the industry for those who might not normally be invited to the table so explicitly,” VanHeusen said. “I’m optimistic leadership by entities like Massport can change the way development happens in Boston, making it more accessible for minority players to take part in projects and resulting in built environments that are more welcoming to diverse populations.”

Last spring, VanHeusen spoke at Building an Inclusive Boston, an event hosted by Suffolk Construction in partnership with the Builders of Color Coalition and African American Real Estate Professionals. The panel was well-attended by members of Boston’s AEC community who came to learn how the team behind 401 Congress Street is implementing meaningful diversity efforts in their practice.

At the event, VanHeusen presented alongside Donald Cogsville, owner of The Cogsville Group LLC; John Hynes IV, project manager at Boston Global Investors; and Anthony Aiello, business development director at Suffolk Construction. The panelists discussed how diversifying the industry depends on implementing policies like Massport’s that strive for inclusion within personnel. VanHeusen shared how Sasaki designers took the neighborhood’s context into heavy consideration to make 401 Congress Street as inclusive as possible to members of the surrounding communities. When asked about how she overcame some of the obstacles she faces in the design world, VanHeusen responded with uplifting advice: “Through all of the challenges, we find opportunities.”

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