Hopkins launches first phase of its `College Town' project

High-rise dorm to open on 33rd Street in 2006

October 16, 2004|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,SUN STAFF

The long-awaited makeover of Charles Village got under way yesterday when Johns Hopkins University officials ceremoniously broke ground on a $75 million residence hall and bookstore complex yesterday.

The brick high-rise on 33rd Street between St. Paul and Charles streets will house 618 students and is the first phase of "College Town," a giant, three-part retail and residential complex.

The building, known as Charles Commons, will bring much-needed housing for undergraduates. And it is being touted not only as the newest university dorm but as a complement to the community.

"This is not just about housing," said Paula Berger, dean of undergraduate education. "The strength of a university education comes with the interaction between fellow students, faculty and the community. Charles Commons was designed with that sense of community."

Architects said the brick facade would blend with the architecture of the neighborhood's rowhouses and small high-rises built in the 1920s. Even the interior won't look like a typical dorm; it features open floor plans and a dining hall complete with a "cabaret area" where local bands can perform, said Chris Harvey, one of the interior architects.

Michelle Browne, a junior from Bennington, Vt., took part in the celebration at the campus' Mattin Center, where officials and students sipped champagne. Though Browne plans to graduate by the time the building is expected to open in 2006, she was glad to see the campus provide more housing.

"Finding an apartment can be impossible," she said. "Some places don't want college students, or we have to make sure we are extra quiet because there are older people in the building."

The $150 million development by Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse will eventually include a 30,000-square-foot bookstore and cafe on the street level of the Charles Commons building, as well as condos, shops and a garage along St. Paul Street.

The project has not been without controversy. One St. Paul Street property owner has yet to sell his four-story apartment building, and some residents worry that the project could strip Charles Village of its charm.

But Sandy Sparks, a neighborhood resident for 40 years and chairwoman of the committee that gave developers feedback on the project's design, said she thought the plans were well-conceived.

"It won't be at all like a strip mall," she said. "It will appeal not only to the students and university staff but the residents. We have to go to all the way to Towson, or the harbor, just to shop."

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