Kenneth Guscott

A building tour Monday by a project team planning the first high-rise in Roxbury’s Dudley Square turned into an impromptu tribute to the developer, Long Bay Management’s Kenneth Guscott, a longtime community leader who died at age 91 in an overnight Milton house fire.

Guscott’s brother Cecil and his daughter Lisa have indicated that they will continue the Rio Grande project as a tribute to Guscott, a former president of Boston’s NAACP chapter, according to David Lee, president of Boston-based Stull & Lee Inc. architects.

“Everybody agreed that Ken would have wanted this to keep going,” said Lee, who worked with Guscott on numerous projects over the past 35 years. “He held onto his beliefs, and he was not a guy who would compromise on his principles. He would push you and you had to push back, but he respected that. He was a force of nature.”

Guscott’s father-in-law, 87-year-old Leroy Whitmore, also died in Monday’s fire.

A World War II veteran and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy-educated engineer born to Jamaican immigrants, Guscott grew up near Dudley Square and framed the Rio Grande project as an opportunity to restore the neighborhood’s economic vitality. After 10 years in retirement, he and his brother Cecil saw an chance in 2015 to redevelop the Washington Street commercial property they’d owned for decades.

“We’ve come back out because we want to do a special job for the community,” Kenneth Guscott told Banker & Tradesman in 2015. “We’re hoping to bring the working-class people back in the district, and that will help the commercial stores come back [too].”

Along with his brothers Cecil and George, Guscott formed Long Bay Management in 1969 and acquired a large portfolio of properties in the region. He led a team of minority investors that formed a joint venture to develop One Lincoln, a 36-story downtown office tower completed in 2003 which generated millions in linkage payments for the Roxbury and Chinatown neighborhoods.

An advocate for minority-owned business participation in real estate projects, Guscott recruited an all-African-American project team for the Dudley Square project which would include market-rate housing built above offices and retail.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued a statement describing Guscott as a “lifelong builder of a better city.”

“His vision for Dudley Square and the transformation of Roxbury was bright and vibrant, and he pushed every day to create jobs, support business development and bring greater opportunity to the neighborhood,” Walsh said.

Late Roxbury Developer Was A ‘Force Of Nature’

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min