More stores proposed for Hopkins area Council bill to seek retail expansion in Charles Village

'Gathering place' needed

Sites are near where university plans to renovate apartments

April 02, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

For a college neighborhood, Charles Village has never been the kind of hip place to buy books, bluejeans or ethnic food that students usually find near universities like Harvard and Princeton.

But now the North Baltimore neighborhood adjacent to the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus is trying to remake itself in the image of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., and Nassau Street in Princeton, N.J.

A bill, to be introduced in the City Council this week, would allow retail development -- ranging from art galleries to video stores -- in an area that now allows mostly houses and apartment buildings.

The so-called Planned Unit Development (PUD) encompasses the 3100 and 3200 blocks of St. Paul St. and the 3000 block of N. Charles St., where Hopkins is about to begin a $17 million renovation of the hulking Homewood Apartments that will include two floors of office and retail space.

The proposed development surrounds the only retail block close to campus -- the 3200 block of St. Paul St. -- which has a bagel shop, bank, liquor store, bar, grocery store and the defunct Homewood Deli, which is about to be reopened into a full-scale restaurant.

The plan would expand the one-block strip and allow demolition of houses to make way for commercial development.

"We need a central gathering place in the neighborhood," said Andrea Van Arsdale, president of the Charles Village Civic Association.

Community leaders have worked on the plan for more than two years, meeting with area residents, Hopkins officials and students, and conducting a survey of residents, said Sandy Sparks, director of the Greater Homewood Community Corporation.

"What we want are more restaurants. People would definitely like a bookstore, a copy center and basic things you might think of near a campus," Ms. Sparks said.

She said Charles Village has never developed into a popular retail center largely because zoning in the blocks surrounding the 3200 block of St. Paul St. limits development to residential use.

If the PUD passes the council, the zoning would remain residential but allow more than 50 types of commercial uses, including dental clinics, jewelry stores, sporting goods stores and theaters.

Second District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, one of the bill's sponsors, said he finds the plan "very inclusive and intensive and thoughtful" because it came from the community, rather than from a developer.

Mr. Ambridge, who heads the council's land use committee, said the plan is the first that involves many property owners -- more than two dozen -- rather than just one owner. Although he said the plan is widely supported, he has heard opposition from three residents whose homes back up to the proposed retail area.

Neighborhood leaders say the linchpin of the plan will be the proposal by Hopkins to renovate the Homewood Apartments and add retail stores on the lower levels.

"It's symbolic that the university sees that it's a stakeholder in Charles Village, and it's in the interest of the university to have a neighborhood hospitable to its students and staff," Ms. Sparks said.

Robert Schuerholz, executive director of Hopkins' university facilities and real estate, said the Homewood project should bring more community residents to shop in the neighborhood, but also will be a drawing card for prospective students.

"In today's world, university recruitment is very competitive. Students not only look at academic aspects, they look at social amenities," he said. Mr. Schuerholz said Hopkins plans to begin construction this summer and finish in the summer of 1997.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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