Joseph E. Corcoran, the founder and chairman of the Corcoran Jennison Companies and a national pioneer in transforming failed public housing projects into successful mixed-income neighborhoods that offer community services to low-income residents, will receive the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps’ Embracing the Legacy Award at the JFK Library in Dorchester on May 20.
Corcoran is responsible for more than $4 billion in real estate developments nationwide, mostly in affordable housing. In 1986, by pushing for a change in federal tax credits – and getting vital help from the late US Sen. Ted Kennedy – he turned the downtrodden Columbia Point project site into the popular Harbor Point on the Bay.
Corcoran also has created a nonprofit, The American City Coalition, which works to revitalize entire inner-city neighborhoods into viable communities. “The purpose of American City Coalition is to expand what we did with public housing and apply it to an entire community,” he told award officials. “It was something similar that Robert F. Kennedy had started to do in New York. I have been blessed with a successful career, and RFK - and the entire Kennedy family - have inspired me to help those who have not lived the American dream.”
The son of Irish immigrants, Corcoran was born in Dorchester in a neighborhood that was mixed in income and ethnicity. His father was unemployed during the Depression yet managed to feed his family of eight children. “I was fortunate to attend Boston College High School, and I want urban kids to have a chance at a good education,” he said. To further his goal of teaching young men and women how to effectively create mixed-income communities and turnaround communities, Corcoran has endowed the Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.
He was nominated for the Robert F. Kennedy Award by the 2008 honoree, auto czar and philanthropist Don Rodman.