Johns Hopkins University officials and students broke ground Friday on a comprehensive landscaping project that will reconfigure the grounds and walkways of the 24-acre North Baltimore campus.
Asphalt will be replaced on quadrangles and walkways with bricks, granite and marble, giving public spaces a stately appearance more in keeping with the campus' architecture, university officials said.
In addition, they said, two campus entrances will be enhanced, scores of trees will be planted, and lights and benches will be added.
Named "Great Excavations," the open-space improvement project is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 4 and is being financed by an anonymous donor. It is the first phase of a sweeping new master plan for the buildings and grounds of the Homewood campus, which will eventually create more than 1 million square feet in facility space, including offices, labs and residential quarters, officials said.
"It will look like it's always looked this way," said Adam Gross, the architect whose Baltimore firm created the master plan. He said the Hopkins designs were "one of the most comprehensive sea changes right now" in campuses around the country.
University President William R. Brody said the campus had become "environmentally degraded," with delivery trucks and cars cluttering the campus and causing noise and air pollution. Seventy vehicle accidents took place on campus in the past year.
When the project is completed, the center of campus will be for pedestrians only. Brody said the effort would not disrupt students.
"The gift is just serendipity," Brody said. "When you drive by, you should feel you're driving by one of the world's greatest research universities. Now, it's virtually invisible."
Dennis O'Shea, a university spokesman, said the outdoor construction project was advanced years by the gift. "I can tell you it will take about a million bricks," he said, declining to disclose cost details. Both the campus' Charles Street entrance at 34th Street and the University Parkway entry near the track and lacrosse field will be repaved, and a new tree-lined drive will lead to a gatehouse next to the athletic field. To create a more arresting presence on Charles Street, a circular driveway will be built by the main gates framing the Milton Eisenhower Library, an element borrowed from an earlier master plan.
Work continues on the student art center facing Charles Street. Other construction projects soon to take place are an underground parking garage on the south end of campus near the Baltimore Museum of Art, a new bookstore on 33rd Street and possibly a footbridge crossing Charles Street.