Hopkins makes bid for Eastern High site

March 01, 1995|By David Folkenflik and Edward Gunts | David Folkenflik and Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers JoAnna Daemmrich, Frank P. L. Somerville and Jean Thompson contributed to this article.

Hemmed in at Homewood, the Johns Hopkins University is seeking to convert the abandoned Eastern High School building and grounds into a satellite campus.

Hopkins officials confirmed last night that they submitted a formal proposal this week to Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) for Hopkins to acquire and develop the 26-acre property as an extension to the university.

Situated on 33rd Street across from Memorial Stadium, the high school property could serve as the springboard to achieve something Hopkins has longed for: a research park bridging Hopkins' Homewood campus and its medical campus in East Baltimore.

"The opportunity is there," said a university official who stressed that no firm plans for a research park have been drafted. "That kind of activity can happen. Hopkins is very creative and very entrepreneurial."

Hopkins is one of two groups to submit a formal proposal for the city-owned parcel, which was offered for bids in January. The other was from a local group that wants to build a strip shopping center under a plan roundly criticized by neighborhood groups. The deadline for bids was Monday.

BDC officials refused to release details of either plan for the city-owned property, saying they needed a month to review them. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke also declined to comment last night. His spokesman said Mr. Schmoke would wait until the BDC and other city agencies had had a chance to assess the plans.

University officials said they would not comment publicly until city officials gave them permission.

Bolstered by a consultant's report, community activists have pointed to Hopkins as a perfect institution to take over the school's grounds because of the university's stature and resources.

The acquisition of the high school would relieve development pressures at Hopkins' increasingly crowded Homewood campus, about a half-mile to the west.

Other universities have successfully spawned satellite research campuses that marry the work of their own scientists with investors. A few universities also have attracted to their research parks new, high-tech industries linked to medical and scientific projects. For instance, Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University have sponsored the development of Research Triangle Park in Durham.

Sources said the idea of a research park was not specifically mentioned in the Hopkins proposal, but the notion has prompted serious discussion among Hopkins officials.

The Hopkins proposal was prepared by the Dome Corp., the development company jointly owned by the university and the ** Johns Hopkins Health System.

Cost estimates were not disclosed, but Mr. Schmoke said last year that university officials projected the cost of renovating the high school at $12 million or more.

Under the terms of the vaguely structured proposal, the university would conduct extensive renovations on the vacant Eastern High. The school, built in 1939, has been closed since 1986 and is in poor condition.

The research park is years off at best, but the possible immediate uses for the old school building could include office space, continuing education programs or dormitories.

The university has made no secret of its wish to have control of the property. This week's proposal marks the culmination of more than a year's worth of negotiations between city and Hopkins officials.

The shopping center proposal for the school grounds already has met with opposition from some neighbors. In January, protesters met at Memorial Stadium to denounce that proposal, which called for razing the high school and replacing it with a strip mall with a Valu Foods market.

At one time, Bethel AME Church considered the property. "We thought about submitting a proposal for the Eastern site and talked to community groups but decided against it because of the considerable investment of time and money that would have been required," said the Rev. Frank Madison Reid III.

The church hopes to build a much larger complex than its current one on Druid Hill Avenue in West Baltimore.

Mr. Reid said the city did not discourage Bethel from making a proposal for the Eastern property.

The pastor said Bethel is considering other options for expansion in the city and Baltimore County, and hopes to decide within three or four weeks.

From the start, Waverly, Ednor Gardens and other neighborhoods surrounding Eastern were hopeful that Hopkins would redevelop the old school, said 3rd District City Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham. He was among those who opposed the Valu Foods development.

Mr. Cunningham said the university would bring greater stability and generate jobs in the neighborhood.

"Johns Hopkins is out of space," he said. "We're looking for jobs in the community, we're looking for stability in the community, and conceivably Johns Hopkins could bring both. From the beginning, I think that this neighborhood has looked toward Johns Hopkins. It was such a wonderful fit."

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