A Blueprint for Developers to Improve Lives
Paul Ognibene, the CEO of Cambridge-based real estate development company Urban Spaces, is known as an innovative developer. His prescience includes pioneering large-scale retail along the First Street Corridor in Cambridge to foreseeing Brighton’s emergence as a market for urban homeownership with The Lancaster. Other examples of Ognibene’s unique ability to project and implement urban visions that meld today’s realities with future trends and demands have made him a thought leader within the greater Boston real estate community.
Paul Ognibene’s development work belies the significance and, indeed, the risk of doing real estate development in an entirely new way. Starting well before the current pandemic, Ognibene formed the Boston Partnership for Community Reinvestment (BPCR) with an affiliated joint-venture partner, Parent + Diamond, a certified minority business enterprise (MBE), to focus on developing affordable single and two-family houses on scattered vacant lots throughout the Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan communities of Boston. Ognibene and the BPCR have developed a construction model using local minority and women-owned businesses and vendors in order to create an economic development engine that keeps dollars circulating within the host neighborhood.
“I’ve been blessed to have many opportunities and we formed the BPCR in an effort to focus on not just what we build, but also on who is building it,” said Ognibene.
Since being awarded the first 30 units of affordable housing related to the BPCR, Paul Ognibene has taken the Diversity and Inclusion components and adapted them into a platform for future projects. Recently, Paul Ognibene and his team submitted a response to the city’s RFP for Charlestown Navy Yard. The team’s response called for all the construction to be performed by joint ventures of larger, more capitalized firms with smaller, local MBE companies who have traditionally not had the capacity to participate in large construction projects. More recently, a proposal by Ognibene’s company to develop 120 home ownership units and a waterfront park in Providence, Rhode Island, was predicated on this same approach of creating employment and wealth generation opportunities for those in the community who need it most, earning the support of the NAACP’s Providence chapter.
As illustrated in the photo above, Ognibene provided free space to a local Cambridge non-profit called Food for Free, in order to help them forward their mission. As Sasha Purpura, the Executive Director of Food for Free put it, “We were in a tight spot and up stepped Paul Ognibene to save the day, not only for us, but for many of our clients. These kinds of generous acts are especially appreciated during these times of divisiveness and distrust. Paul (Ognibene) represents the opposite, an example of how people from all walks of life can come together and look out for each other.”
So what’s next for Paul Ognibene? His company continues to grow, his commitment to increase minority and female participation in construction is perpetual, and his ground-breaking efforts in this regard are becoming a blueprint for other developers to increase the benefits of their projects. That said, Paul’s primary focus is always on family and his adopted hometown of Cohasset.