fb-pixelFor Kelleher, the work continues, now at BlueHub - The Boston Globe Skip to main content
bold types

For Kelleher, the work continues, now at BlueHub

Lefton joins Boston-based offshore wind developer; Fish eyes disruption with Suffolk’s new VC fund; Cherilus teams up on downtown pot venture.

Karen Kelleher, president of the BlueHub Loan Fund.Chris Morris

As a native of a comfortable Connecticut suburb, Karen Kelleher quickly became motivated to fight wealth inequities when she saw them firsthand in Boston’s neighborhoods after she moved here for college.

Addressing those inequities has driven the Boston College grad throughout her three-decade career. It’s a drive that she will put to use on a national stage, now that she has joined Boston-based nonprofit BlueHub Capital to oversee its BlueHub Loan Fund.

Kelleher started with BlueHub, a community development financial institution, on Monday, leaving another CDFI, LISC Boston, behind. They are similar organizations, more partners than rivals: LISC Boston and BlueHub have worked together on helping to finance a number of deals, including the Nubian Square Ascends project in Roxbury and an artists’ buyout of the Humphreys Street Studios in Dorchester.


As BlueHub’s Loan Fund president, she will oversee 12 staffers who work to identify, place, and manage community development loans across 23 states — for projects ranging from a hotel-to-housing conversion in Nashville to the construction of a public charter school in St. Louis. The BlueHub Loan Fund makes more than $100 million worth of loans each year, and manages a $670 million portfolio of community development loans. Kelleher, who jokingly refers to herself as a “recovering lawyer,” worked at LISC for five years, and before that was a deputy director at the quasi-public agency MassHousing.

Kelleher said she’s looking forward to working with BlueHub chief executive Elyse Cherry, a prominent leader in community development circles, to help nonprofits tackle issues such as acute housing shortages, racial inequity, and climate resiliency.

“I will have the authority and agility to take [BlueHub’s] strong balance sheet, the tools, and the team, and figure out how we can have a greater impact,” Kelleher said. “My goal is to raise the bar for BlueHub. It’s a high bar already.”


Kelleher takes over for Michelle Volpe, who left BlueHub last year to lead the Property and Casualty Initiative, a statewide community loan fund backed by insurers. Meanwhile, over at LISC’s Boston chapter, regional leader Jessica Guilfoy Hart takes charge on an interim basis until a replacement for Kelleher can be found.

Kelleher never forgets about her good fortune, and how it motivates her to give back.

“It’s my job to go and change policies [and] rebuild the structural framework that makes it possible for every community to thrive with affordable housing, economic opportunity, health care, and healthy food,” Kelleher said. “It’s a privilege every day to find more ways to make that happen.”

The logo of German energy giant RWE is seen before the annual results press conference at the company's headquarters in Essen, western Germany, on March 21, 2023. INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Top Biden offshore wind aide to succeed Theoharides at RWE

German energy company RWE has made a high-profile hire for its Boston-based offshore wind development efforts in the United States: former top Biden administration aide Amanda Lefton.

Lefton led President Biden’s efforts to turbocharge the nation’s offshore wind industry as head of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from early 2021 until February of this year. More recently, she has been a senior policy director at Boston law firm Foley Hoag, though she has been based in the Albany, N.Y. area. (Prior to joining Biden’s team, Lefton was a top environmental official in New York’s state government.) Lefton takes over for Katie Theoharides, the former Massachusetts energy secretary who recently left RWE to oversee the Trustees of Reservations. At RWE, Lefton will oversee offshore wind development on the East Coast. It’s a portfolio that includes the largest offshore wind area south of Long Island, New York — to be developed in a joint venture with National Grid Ventures.


Lefton will report to Sam Eaton, who heads up RWE’s offshore wind business in the United States.

“She knows what it takes to get an industry launched,” Eaton said. “She knows what it takes to see projects get developed and ultimately bring them to construction. That’s a skillset that will be very valuable to our team.”

Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish speaks to the audience at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held at South Station, where a 51-story mixed-use tower is under construction, on Sept. 20, 2022.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

With new VC fund, Suffolk’s Fish hopes to ‘disrupt’ construction

One of the hottest venture capital firms in town can be found in an unlikely place: tucked away off Massachusetts Avenue, in the Newmarket industrial district, at the crossroads of the South End, Dorchester, and Roxbury.

There you’ll find Suffolk Technologies, in an office behind the headquarters of its more well-known affiliate, Suffolk Construction. The venture capital firm got its start investing funds from Suffolk owner John Fish in construction tech startups. But now, Fish is bringing on outside investors. Last week, Fish celebrated the closing of the inaugural Suffolk Technologies venture capital fund with a gathering at the ‘Quin House in the fancier Back Bay neighborhood. The $110 million fund was oversubscribed, said Fish, who put in $25 million of his own money. So far, Suffolk Technologies has invested in about 30 startups, either through the new fund or through Fish’s direct contributions, with investments ranging between $500,000 and $5 million — sums Fish hopes to increase when it comes time to raise a second fund.


Suffolk’s technology investment group is led by managing partners Puneet Mahajan, Jit Kee Chin, and Wan Li Zhu. Suffolk Technologies also runs a construction-tech startup accelerator program, known as Suffolk Boost.

At any given time, Fish’s construction company — Boston’s largest general contractor — has about 100 job sites operating across the country. This presents a unique laboratory for the various Suffolk-supported startups to test their technology. They have a wide range of ideas, but they generally support one goal: making construction more efficient.

“Construction has been left out of the tech revolution,” Fish said. “Because of an escalation of construction and labor costs, today for the first time the cost to build an asset is more expensive than the value you create. … Something’s got to give.”

Cherilus celebrates a new venture with old teammates

The bonding that takes place on the football field can also carry over to the business world. Just ask former pro football player-turned-real estate investor Gosder Cherilus. He has joined up with two former teammates of his, Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson Jr. and Rob Sims, from Cherilus’ time playing for the Detroit Lions. Only this time, they are wearing street clothes — not helmets, pads, and jerseys. And they’re taking their game to 200 High St. in downtown Boston, to open a cannabis dispensary there.

Cherilus leads a local venture that signed a licensing agreement with Primitiv, a Michigan cannabis company founded by Sims and Johnson. Last week, Cherilus unveiled the new 4,000-square-foot shop under the Primitiv banner. It’s next door to Howl at the Moon, part of a different venture overseen by Cherilus and Paul Holian. The main partners in the Primitiv Boston licensee, High Street Cannabis LLC, are Cherilus, Holian, Marie St. Fleur, and Karlens Beauge.


Sims and Johnson were on hand for the grand opening — as was former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, because the store carries his Papi Cannabis brand.

This dispensary has been years in the making, so Cherilus is relieved to finally get it going. But he said it’s also been a blast working with his former teammates again after all these years. (A Somerville High School and Boston College alum, Cherilus left the Lions to join the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, and retired from the NFL entirely in 2017 as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.) They’re still, as he puts it, brothers for life. The game has changed, but the loyalty remains.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him @jonchesto.