City to invest in project near Hopkins campus

Board of Estimates approves $21 million for sidewalks, parking in Charles Village

August 31, 2006|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,Sun reporter

The city's Board of Estimates agreed yesterday to spend $21 million to support the "College Town" development that is rising in the Charles Village streets bordering the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, an investment that gives City Hall a profit-sharing piece of the project.

In return for taxpayer-backed money, the city will own a substantial portion of a parking garage that will be open to the public and will guarantee substantial improvements to sidewalks along the St. Paul Street corridor between 30th and 34th streets.

"That whole corner is really going to be a dynamic, vibrant college town center," Mayor Martin O'Malley said.

The $170 million project at St. Paul and 33rd streets consists of three parts. The first, called Charles Commons, is a Hopkins-financed $60 million dormitory tower rising on the northwest corner above a street-level Barnes & Noble bookstore.

The other two are part of a partnership between Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse and the Canyon Johnson Urban Fund II started by retired basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

One phase, on the east side of St. Paul Street, is the $27 million, four-story Village Lofts project that consists of 13,000 square feet of retail space, private parking and 68 loft-style condominiums. The west-side portion is the $83 million, 12-floor Olmstead project consisting of 15,000 square feet of stores, 107 condominiums and a parking garage.

The five-member board, controlled by O'Malley, authorized the Baltimore Development Corp. to use tax-increment financing and revenue bonds to finance $4.9 million in street improvements and the $15.8 million purchase of a major portion of the parking garage, which will offer 395 spaces to the public.

"Why are we putting money in this? Because it wouldn't happen without the city investment," said Andrew B. Frank, executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency. "And the returns to the city are enormous in terms of direct benefits from the taxes but also the indirect benefits of beginning to create a college town next to our most prestigious and largest university."

City officials estimate that the project will generate $1.7 million of additional annual tax revenue for the city, after paying off the debt service on the city's subsidy.

Frank said the city will reap 25 percent of the profits from the project after the developers take their share.

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

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