The Cutting Edge Of Baltimore

East-side Setting Of Hopkins-related Biopark Becomes A Full-blown Mixed-use Neighborhood As 88 Acres Of Housing, A School And Open Space Take Shape

August 02, 2009|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

It has sometimes been referred to as a biotech center or "biopark," as if it's only for scientists.

Its largest building is filled with laboratory space.

But it's more accurate to describe the 88-acre redevelopment area north of the Johns Hopkins Hospital as a full-fledged, mixed-use neighborhood.

Besides laboratory space for life sciences companies and others that want to be near Hopkins, this East Baltimore community, informally called the New Eastside, has been designed to contain townhouses, condominiums, rental apartments, stores, a school, churches, professional services, parking and open space - everything found in older urban neighborhoods.

After six years of site preparation and construction, the $1.8 billion planned community is entering a new phase with the first market-rate housing up for sale to the general public.

As of Saturday, builders are offering residences ranging from new townhouses and condominiums to energy-efficient homes created within the shells of 100-year-old rowhouses.

Christopher Shea, the interim president and chief executive officer of East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit that is leading the area's redevelopment, said completion of the first phases of for-sale housing is a critical step in the effort to rejuvenate the area.

"We're looking to build a broad middle-class housing base," he said during a recent walking tour of the area. "That's how you stabilize a neighborhood."

The community is different from most housing developments in Baltimore, Shea said, because it's larger and has more elements.

"This is a jolt to the market," he said. "It's a complete change to the housing stock. It's happening at a scale that you don't usually see in an urban project. This is nearly 100 acres. That's a significant amount of land."

The New Eastside is bounded roughly by McDonogh Street on the west, Madison Street on the south, Patterson Park Drive on the east and the Amtrak corridor on the north. A city-approved master plan calls for construction of up to 1.2 million square feet of laboratories and other life sciences-related space in a district known as the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins.

The first life sciences building, known as the John G. Rangos Sr. Building, opened last year at 855 N. Wolfe St., with 278,000 square feet of space on seven stories. It was developed by Forest City Enterprises, which EBDI selected to be the master developer for the first 33 acres of the 88-acre renewal area.

The master plan also calls for construction or rehabilitation of 2,200 residences over the next decade, making it one of the largest mixed-use developments in Baltimore.

The goal, Shea, said, was to create housing for people who work at Hopkins and others who want to live close to downtown and other job centers, without chasing away all of the area's former residents.

To make room to build new housing within the renewal area, EBDI and Forest City had to clear land and relocate or otherwise work with families that had been living within its boundaries.

As part of the project, EBDI pledged to give neighborhood residents who were affected by construction the first chance to buy or rent each "cluster" of new or rehabbed housing. After a 90-day sales period open only to neighborhood residents, the builders can offer the housing to the general public.

In keeping with that arrangement, the first clusters of for-sale housing were offered exclusively to residents from the project area through Friday. On Saturday, the exclusive period ended for the initial phases of for-sale housing and builders began sales to the community at large for two developments containing several types of housing.

In addition, EBDI has launched a program in which it will rehabilitate houses for residents who live in the area and don't want to move away. Construction also is expected to begin next year at Ashland Avenue and Wolfe Street on a 22-story tower containing housing for 575 graduate students. Allen and O'Hara of Tennessee will be the builder.

Another key element of the renewal effort is a new public school called the East Baltimore Community School that is opening this month at Washington and Chase streets. The school is opening in a temporary location this year with kindergarten, first-grade and fifth-grade students. It will eventually have classes from kindergarten through eighth grade.

By 2013, EBDI intends to build a permanent public school on a seven-acre parcel near Chester Street and Ashland Avenue. It will be one of the first new public elementary/middle school buildings in Baltimore in 30 years.

Shea said the for-sale housing is aimed at a mix of residents, from long-time residents to people who are new to the area. Initially, he said, he expects the for-sale housing to appeal to buyers who have a relationship with Hopkins, primarily as employees.

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