JHU moving forward with 2 new buildings

But telescope institute no longer plans to lease one of them

February 15, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm and Frank Roylance | Jamie Stiehm and Frank Roylance,SUN STAFF

Despite an abrupt decision by the Space Telescope Science Institute not to expand its presence on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, university officials pressed ahead yesterday with plans to construct two buildings on timber-lined San Martin Drive.

The city's Design Advisory Panel gave preliminary approval for the structures and offered advice on preserving the parklike setting. Hopkins officials hope to complete construction in spring 2004.

Margaret DeBolt, the lead architect, emphasized an environmental and landscape enhancement plan that would bring in a new mix of native trees to supplant those that would be cut down. She said the foliage makes the area "a special site" and that particular care would be given to sustaining the environmental balance.

University officials plan to meet Thursday with neighbors of the 24-acre North Baltimore campus, who have opposed the removal of trees on the grounds. One community leader said environmental impact, parking and related issues are concerns.

Steven V.W. Beckwith, the Space Telescope Science Institute's director, said original plans called for his agency to lease a new building on the Hopkins campus, an option shelved because of financial and program uncertainties.

"We decided not to go ahead with that building. We just notified Hopkins about that [last] Friday," he said.

Dennis O'Shea, a university spokesman, said yesterday that JHU plans to build it anyway, for other Hopkins uses.

Timothy D. Nugent, a project manager in facilities management for Hopkins, added, "We'll build it as a cold dark shell and see whoever steps up."

The five-level, 40,000- square-foot building intended for Space Telescope use will be built about 35 feet high, atop an existing asphalt parking lot near a hairpin curve on the west side of campus. The three lower levels will be used for parking, the university's architecture team told the design advisory panel yesterday in a presentation of two structures intended to be built next to each other, surrounded by a forest glade.

The design panel praised the larger, roughly 80,000-square-foot building, planned as a new home for the Carnegie Institution, which does scientific research in geophysics and embryology, among other fields.

"They are not meant to be Building A and B of the same flavor," DeBolt explained as she fielded questions about why they were diagonal to each other.

The Carnegie Institution building will be made mostly of glass and copper, giving it a shining look, DeBolt and other architects from the Bethesda firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca said.

Dennis Byrne, president of the Wyman Park Community Association, said he was not advised of recent developments by Hopkins officials. Speaking of a meeting with the university, community and architects that is to be held Thursday at Keswick Multi-Care Center, Byrne said, "We have environmental issues with green space and the Stony Run [waterway], noise and light pollution issues, parking issues and buildings issues."

DeBolt acknowledged community concerns yesterday and indicated that the project team would try to address them.

Beckwith said his staff -- which manages science operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's premier eye in the sky -- will have to make do. Beckwith said the existing building on San Martin Drive was designed for 350 people but accommodates 481. An additional 80 institute employees have found space across the street at Hopkins' Bloomberg physics building. And 40 more are working in leased space off campus at the nearby Rotunda.

"We had thought that probably the best solution to consolidate would be to get a second building close to ours," Beckwith said. The initial plans called for Hopkins to construct a building for 200 people, about half the size of the existing structure. But Beckwith said the institute is uncertain how it would pay the rent.

It has not completed negotiations with NASA on the next five-year contract for managing Hubble research, he said. And it has just begun talks with NASA on its role in operating Hubble's planned replacement -- the Next Generation Space Telescope. The Bush administration proposed last week an increase in NASA's space science budget, but it is cracking down on cost overruns elsewhere. One of the targets is human space flight, which includes the shuttle missions needed to repair and upgrade Hubble.

Going forward with a new building, Beckwith said, "would be tantamount to saying we expect the institute to be either the same size it is now, or somewhat bigger into the future. I don't think that would be a wise thing to do."

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