Gregory Minott
Managing principal, DREAM Collaborative
Age: 45
Industry experience: 26 years 

A renovation project at a bank branch in his Jamaican hometown launched Gregory Minott’s entrepreneurial career at age 18 and piqued his interest in architecture. The path led to graduate school in the U.S. and career advancement in Boston at Elkus Manfredi Architects, before Minott founded Roxbury-based DREAM Collaborative in 2008. The firm is part of Nubian Ascend Partners’ team planning a 329,000-square-foot development including a food hall and marketplace, cultural hall and theater, and artist housing at the Blair lot in Nubian Square. Minott leads the Boston Society for Architecture as its 2021 president. 

Q: What’s at the top of your list of priorities as 2021 president of the BSA?
A: When I decided to run for BSA president, it was really about my passion for not only our built environment but the underrepresentation of minority groups and women in the architectural profession. And so, I wanted to help take concrete steps to improve that outcome. I was elected in 2019 before COVID and the calls for racial justice last year, but it just reinforced my desire to make a difference and advocate for more inclusive policies and planning decisions, and we’re seeing that momentum across the city as well.  

We’re in an environment where people are paying attention, so we’re definitely leveraging that. One of my main goals was to reinforce the notion that architecture can play an integral role in shaping and leading our city around the real solutions that influence how we design and build for equity. At the same time, we’ve renewed our focus on the strategic plan for the BSA about advancing equity and social justice in the profession. We’ll be having a series of workshops this fall on creating more economic opportunities for Black professionals in the built environment, focused on things like equitable partnerships in design and development projects, as those requirements have been popping up in requests for proposals across the city. 

Q: Your firm has worked with the city of Boston on housing innovation including a multigenerational housing design model. What’s the latest on that pilot?
A: We worked for a couple of years putting that together, getting through the community process and getting approved. It was creating a local solution to specific housing needs around generational multifamily housing, which was a good model. It’s not one-size-fits-all. Our thinking evolved when it comes to housing. Different neighborhoods have different needs. We were able to engage with the neighborhood stakeholders and identified a specific housing type that was lacking.  

In this case, it was multi-generational housing, a modern-day two-family but combined next to each other to create sort of a mini-neighborhood, if you will, of 12 units. We got it through the community engagement process and we’ve had funders interested, however we’ve been snagged by an abutter issue which has taken more time than anyone expected. So, the project has not been built yet. The jury is still out on the outcomes, but we think based upon the consensus and financial viability we were able to build into the project, we are hopeful it will be a replicable development. 

Q: Your firm is partnering on the Nubian Ascends proposal for the Blair lot property. What was the inspiration for the designs for your share of the project?
A: We are leading the 25,000-square-foot cultural hall that will further civic activity and bring 18-hour activity and vitality to the square for local arts and cultural offerings, and also create flexibility and access to performance and art space. The inspiration was from the history and social context of the neighborhood, but also embracing elements of North African architecture through geometry and scale to make it a symbolic piece that confirms Nubian Square’s cultural identity.  

As an example, we have a canopy that floats above the cultural hall that announces the civic importance of the building and also signals an arrival to Nubian for cars or pedestrians. It helps create a special moment on that Washington Street corridor. In terms of the concept, the roof has a triangular geometry which is symbolic of the Nubian pyramids in Sudan, and we also saw inspiration from the National Museum of African History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The other piece is the artist housing on Harrison Avenue. We’re creating home ownership with an artist preference, they’re going to be Passive House sustainable units, and a workspace dedicated to artists located on the corner of Harrison and Eustis Street. 

Q: What’s the history of DREAM Collaborative and its growth strategy?
A: We started off in 2008. My journey as an entrepreneur started back in Jamaica, and I really saw a chance to build not only generational wealth but also to address real issues like underrepresentation in the profession itself and real challenges like housing costs, gentrification and expanding opportunities for underrepresented groups in higher education. So, in 2008, my co-founder Troy Depeiza and I got together and thought we could make a difference. We started off engaging the neighborhoods regardless of the product type, understanding the needs of folks who could see themselves in the products we’re creating and build buildings and public spaces that work for everyone. It’s a real focus on people and projects that are high impact. We see design as a process of engagement. That’s really our ethos. We are a minority-owned business and we bring a different perspective. We’re doing a lot of Passive House projects and we’re looking to grow our adaptive reuse and historic preservation offerings. 

Q: What does your own career trajectory influence your mentorship for people of color looking for entry or advancement in the industry?
A: We need to be constantly thinking about that pipeline and that is certainly a priority of the BSA. Personally, that is a passion of mine, inspiring the next generation, the folks who need to see an example of what they could do. They need mentors. They need to say, “Wow – you look like me and I can do the same thing.” Many of our projects are within 1 mile of Madison Park [Technical Vocational High School], so we give students an opportunity to shadow some of our people who are doing construction administration. They start to understand that idea of it. We’ve had people who were carpenters and they decided to become architects. 

Minott’s Five Favorite Books 

  1. The Bible (NKJV version) 
  2. “The DREAM Giver” by Bruce Wilkinson  
  3. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins 
  4. “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek 
  5. “Creating a World without Poverty” by Muhammad Yunus 

Designing to Make a Difference

by Steve Adams time to read: 4 min