BOSTON — “I grew up in a small hilltop town in Jamaica called Mandeville. [I’d] ride my bike around and see these empty houses and imagine what they would be like when they were finished being built.”
Years later architect Greg Minott is doing building as principal and co-founder of DREAM Collaborative, one of the few black-owned architecture and real estate development firms in the state.
“I got an opportunity when I was 17 to design a bank for my father, had contact and he thought it would be a good idea for his 17-year-old son to design this bank. And I was shocked and didn’t know what to do with that. But they trusted me to do it. And although it would be years later when Dream was formed, it really gave me the confidence that someday this could become a reality and a business,” says Minott.
Minott spent most of his early career in the Caribbean, until going to grad school in New Jersey and later, meeting DREAM co-founder and Barbados native, Troy Depeiza.
“My aunt actually at the time had an architect, and I heard the word I just heard the word and said, the architect couldn’t even pronounce that,” says Depeiza. “But I was always very artistic as a kid, you know, drawing and things like that. I said, you know, I want to be an architect and I want to be an architect someday.”
After spending time at firms overseas and in the U.S., Troy and Nick knew they wanted their business to be different.
“For Greg and I, we said, you know, we want to build a firm where it’s, you know, inclusive,” says Depeiza. “Like all the firms, you know, I had to work that there were very few black people. Okay. You know, even in Barbados, architectural firms, you may find, you know, a few black people who do own them, but they’re very tiny, one or two people.”
Depeiza and Minott added a third to the executive leadership team in 2019, making Boston-area native Nick Brooks their third principal.
“When I first started in my architectural journey of about 100,000 registered architects, less than 1% were black. So that’s like going into a profession where if you walk into a room of 100 people, you might not even see another black face,” says Brooks. “So, it was extremely challenging, not only getting a job in that world but then showing up in a professional capacity because most people have never seen anything like you.”
Brooks, Minott, and Depeiza’s mission is to change the faces in the room and use international and local experience to build and restore buildings in the Boston area no matter who lives there. 2451 Washington Street in Boston is an example of that.
“That was one of our visions to say, hey, we can design affordable housing, you know, for underserved people. And this could be good architecture and they could be proud to live in it,” says Depeiza.
Whether it is the historic First Church in Roxbury, where they are literally preserving black history to The Foundry at DryDock in the Seaport, these three are building and living their dream with the hope of inspiring young people to follow theirs.
Minott says, “personally, I’d love to touch the lives of a thousand young minds individually and inspire them to in some way, shape or form care about their built environment.”
“Whether it’s architecture will be a successful business, an environment that’s that is very challenging,” says Depeiza.
“I think that’d be one of my hopes for the future, is that we wouldn’t be so novel. I think it is starting to become evident now that more perspectives enable you to have a better outcome and a better process,” says Brooks.
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