Hopkins Eyes the Eastern Site

March 04, 1995

They built it, mothballed it, waited for years -- but no one came. Now, after several abortive previous attempts, the city has received two proposals to redevelop the 26-acre Eastern High School site along 33rd Street.

A partnership wants to demolish the venerable instructional building and turn the parcel into a strip shopping center. In contrast, Johns Hopkins University would keep and rehabilitate the school and use it as the staging area for further development.

Although the final decision will not be made until the spring, Johns Hopkins seems to have a lock on the site. And with good reason. Nearby residents would love to have the university branching out there, particularly since the familiar, old Eastern High building would be retained and renovated for a variety of university related uses.

The Hopkins proposal estimates the university and its development partners will spend up to $40 million in capital investments on the site and employ up to 1,500 persons there. The spinoff value to the city could include 2,500 off-site jobs and $250,000 in additional property tax revenue.

"They are the ideal tenant because of the stability they offer," gushes Jim Fendler of the Waverly Improvement Association.

The Memorial Stadium neighborhoods have been wistfully talking about Hopkins taking over the site for the past eight years. Hopkins, while expressing interest, repeatedly said it was in no financial position to create an additional academic or research center.

All this changed last week. A delegation consisting of departing Hopkins President William C. Richardson, Vice President Eugene Sunshine and James A. Flick Jr., the head of Dome Corp., the university's development arm, told Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke the university would submit a development proposal for the Eastern site.

"This was the time to do it -- or risk losing the site," said a knowledgeable Hopkins official.

Even though Hopkins had little time to prepare it, the university's proposal is specific. It wants to use the old Eastern High building for offices and academic needs. A portion also may be used by the Kennedy Krieger Institute for a small high school and for a business incubator center. A series of new buildings would ring the old school.

The Eastern site is located about a mile east of the university's Homewood liberal arts campus. Hopkins' East Baltimore hospital complex -- including Kennedy Krieger -- is about three miles to the south. This proximity opens dynamic redevelopment potential for the old Eastern High School site.

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