Hopkins, Struever coordinate projects

Redevelopment proposal to enliven Charles Village

Focus is 3200 block of St. Paul St.

January 17, 2003|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Hoping to infuse its neighborhood with more of a "college town" atmosphere, the Johns Hopkins University is working with a Baltimore developer to bring a bookstore, several shops and a new mix of student housing to an area of Charles Village that community leaders hope will become a social hub.

The university's aim to enliven city streets right outside its main gate dovetails with another Charles Village redevelopment project underway by the developer, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse.

Since last year, the Baltimore-based developer has quietly been buying rowhouses in the Hopkins area, saying it hopes to jazz up the 3200 block of St. Paul St. with new businesses and upgraded homes.

Dennis O'Shea, the Hopkins spokesman, said yesterday the university's commitment to work with Struever would ensure harmony between the projects, which he said will bring the college and the community closer together in a more upscale setting.

"Coordinated planning among the university and the community with respect to our parcel and their parcel will lead to better results for everyone and makes it that much easier," O'Shea said.

To make way for a clean-slate design, the entire L-shaped site will be cleared between East 33rd Street, North Charles Street and St. Paul Street, he said.

University officials said they envision a variety of shops in the East 33rd Street complex, which may include clothing shops that cater to a youthful crowd, a coffee shop or cafM-i and small specialty boutiques.

The driving idea is that the bookstore will be designed to be more than a place to buy books, but also a central venue where people spend time socializing, studying or shopping.

The university owns all the real estate on the site - a plain brick office building, an attractive but antiquated parking garage, and the Ivy Hall student apartments, which houses a Royal Farms store.

Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse competed against seven other developers last year and tailored its pitch to the university to underscore a shared interest in reshaping the strategically located spot on the North Baltimore map.

Linda LoCascio, the senior development director for both Struever projects, said: "We emphasized the chance to do our master planning together. The community and the university can work with the same developer and the same design team principles will be applied to the whole area."

She added, "This gives us a chance to study the streetscape and sidewalks and the way they blend into the community. This fits exactly into our focus of building communities."

Charles Village community leaders expressed pleasure, if not surprise, at the news that the developers of the American Can Co. in Canton and the Tide Point waterfront building are lately setting their sights northward.

"It's probably a good thing, a compatible, coherent design for both projects, not that they should be identical," said Beth Bullamore, president of the Charles Village Civic Association. "Both the university and Struever Bros. have stated their commitment to be sympathetic to the neighborhoods."

People on all sides of the deal said the prospect gives meaning to the hope of forging stronger ties between the community and the campus. Another spur to the project is the fact that Hopkins has a scarcity of adequate parking and student housing.

The neighborhood association's past president, John Spurrier, said quality of life could be improved for residents and students alike. "Retail development that complements rather than competes with existing businesses will result in residents making fewer trips to the suburbs," he said.

A joint planning process that will invite campus and community input will begin soon and take all year to complete, O'Shea and LoCascio said. Construction on the bookstore-anchored complex will begin in mid-2004, O'Shea said.

The Hopkins need for a new campus bookstore was regarded as critical, because it is seen as the linchpin for bringing village residents and students into the same walking paths and gathering places to make for a more dynamic concentration of people. The university's bookstore is now in the basement of Gilman Hall.

"To have it hidden away in the basement is a waste of resources," O'Shea said. "When we realized it [the East 33rd Street site] could accommodate more than just a bookstore, we said, well, great, we can do even more to advance the interests of the campus and the community."

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