When Charles Weinstein attended Baltimore's City College in the 1960s, the neighboring all-girls Eastern High School was, for him, nothing less than an impenetrable fortress.
Little did he know that years later he would be privy to every last inch of the place, right down to the graffiti scrawled on bathroom walls.
Weinstein, director of property management for the Hopkins-affiliated Dome Corp., is overseeing the Eastern High School redevelopment project, a major renovation effort that is transforming the 62-year-old building into both administrative office space for the university and an emerging technology center for private companies.
The work, which began in July, is currently at its midpoint, with crews of more than 350 laboring six days a week to ready the space for occupancy. University tenants are expected to begin moving there in March 2001.
The structure is located less than a mile from the Homewood campus and three miles from the East Baltimore campus. Once completed, it will be a state-of-the-art space retrofitted with several passenger elevators, new lighting, a fiber optic network connected to Homewood, an energy recovery system and a roof-mounted, wireless microwave dish for the transmission of telecommunications voice and data signals.
It will have come a long way since Weinstein first stepped inside.
In 1997, the university purchased the vacant 200,000-square-foot building along with its surrounding property, which sits immediately across from Memorial Stadium on East 33rd Street. The school ceased operating in 1986.
In the 11-year interim the building had become the victim of extensive vandalism, according to Weinstein. Copper downspouts were looted, graffiti was everywhere, and most of the windows had been broken. The vacant space also had become a rookery of sorts, with pigeons being its only occupants during that time.
In addition, the roof was badly damaged, and portions of the building were literally flooded with rainwater, more than 25 feet in some below-grade rooms.
"No doubt, we always recognized there was an enormous amount of work to bring this building into the modern era," Weinstein said during a recent tour of the renovation work. "But the structure itself is fantastic."
Eastern High School was opened in 1938, one of two new flagship all-girls schools in Baltimore, along with Western High School. The four-story structure is in the shape of an H, with courtyards in the front and rear. The exterior is brick and limestone, set off by several massive windows of neo-Gothic design. The interior features include ceramic brick-tiled walls and terrazzo floors, which Weinstein said are in incredibly good shape.
Overall, Weinstein said, the university purchased a building that was very structurally sound and whose shell had been remarkably preserved.
"Structure was never an issue; this is the way it was built, and there is virtually no deterioration," Weinstein said. "Couple that with these wonderful windows and all the fancy brick and limestone work, and it is a potentially spectacular redevelopment. We thought it was definitely worth the effort to renovate."
James McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration, said the initial use of Eastern High School will be to house parts of administration that need to move out of core buildings on the Homewood campus in order to make room for the expansion of academic programs and student support services. In particular, the construction of Hodson Hall, a new classroom building, will necessitate the move of offices located in Merryman, which will be razed.
University personnel will occupy approximately 75 percent of the Eastern High School space. The first offices scheduled to move there include Human Resources' Office of Human Services, Hopkins Internal Audits, the Controller's Office, the Treasurer's Office and segments of Hopkins Information Technology Services. When completed, the building is expected to house units from the Whiting School of Engineering as well as a business incubator center.
To accommodate everyone, classrooms have been stripped and reconfigured, and former school amenities put to new use. Weinstein points out a locker room, which up until two weeks ago contained thousands of lockers, targeted as future tenant space; and the former gymnasium, which is being turned into a two-level office space.
"In essence, we are making maximum use of the entire interior of the building," Weinstein said.
The project's architects are Kann and Associates, of Baltimore, for the building's exterior; and Colimore/Clarke and Associates, also of Baltimore, for all the interior tenant space.
One of the building's most pleasant features is its abundance of light. Weinstein said the school's original designers wanted to let in as much air and light as possible for the students, and thus called for a multitude of high windows.
The building, which sits on a high elevation, also commands a spectacular view.
"On the upper floors, depending where you are, you can see Homewood campus, the East Baltimore campus and Bayview," Weinstein said. "On a clear day, you can see for miles. We might have to supply everyone with sunglasses."
Other building features will include newly landscaped courtyards, lighted and secured parking, exterior uplighting, J-card-accessed doors and a food service.
Weinstein said he expects the shell of the building to be completed by late January.
"One of the nice things about doing the renovation of a building like this is that we are not really hampered by bad weather," Weinstein said. "We have put on a new roof and will soon be replacing all the windows so that people can work in here when there is rain, snow or sleet."
The entire site is 26 acres, and the university has secured a planned unit development ordinance from the city that allows it to add other buildings in the future.