Looking for room to grow, Johns Hopkins Medicine is collaborating with Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's administration on a plan to acquire nearly 200 properties just north of the East Baltimore campus. Richard A. Grossi, chief financial officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the aim is to use a significant portion of the acquired property for the future expansion of the medical campus.
The plan hinges on recently proposed legislation that would amend the urban renewal plan for the Middle East area and give the city condemnation powers over the properties, many of which are vacant and dilapidated row houses. According to Grossi, Hopkins has an agreement with the city to buy the properties it needs after the city acquires them.
Grossi said Hopkins already has begun to purchase houses in this area but needs the legislation passed in order to move forward with its expansion plans.
"Without the right of condemnation you could be left with five houses in the middle of properties you can't use," he said. "We're growing, and right now there is no place to put our planned new facilities. Under this plan the community gives up housing, but in turn it gets new job opportunities and a community in the process of rebuilding itself."
The legislation would permit the construction of medical facilities on a rectangular area bounded by Broadway on the west, Chester Street on the east, Ashland Avenue on the north and Madison Street on the south, an area now designated for residences and neighborhood businesses.
The proposed legislation also allows for the purchase of the remaining properties needed for expansion of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, development of a community center facility, the creation of a small public park just north of the planned Hopkins expansion area and the acquisition for rehabilitation of about two dozen abandoned properties on Eager and Washington streets.
The first piece of Hopkins expansion in the five-block area would be the construction of a four- or five-story-high 100,000-square-foot facility to be designated for "basic science research."
Assuming the legislation is passed by the City Council, Grossi estimates clearing the properties could be completed "in a year or two."
"The tough part would be getting people [living in the area] relocated," Grossi said, adding that the money for the building still needs to be raised.
The current occupancy rate of the area, which includes boarded-up houses and others that have been renovated within the past 10 years, is under 50 percent. Any homeowners whose property is acquired for the expansion would be offered finan-cial incentives to remain in the area in newly renovated houses, according to city officials.
The cost of acquiring the properties has not yet been determined, but Grossi said Hopkins is currently ascertaining market prices so that "people are given a fair and adequate value for their homes."
The proposed legislation lists 196 properties to be acquired, 45 of which are owned by the city's public housing agency.
The plan has the backing of the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, a nonprofit neighborhood partnership focused on community revitalization, and Grossi said Hopkins is working diligently with HEBCAC to relocate people whose homes are purchased.
"We don't want people moving out of the city," Grossi said. "These are productive community members who we want to keep right here in East Baltimore."
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. before the city's Planning Commission, located at 417 E. Fayette St.
In a separate expansion effort, last month the city and The Johns Hopkins Hospital agreed to a land swap that allows Hopkins to take over the site of the recently demolished Broadway Homes public housing project, an eight-acre parcel of land bounded by Broadway and Fayette, Orleans and Wolfe streets. In exchange, the city gained the site of the former Church Hospital for the construction of 112 townhouses intended for low- and middle-income residents.
Hopkins plans to use the Broadway Homes space, located south of the medical campus, for offices, laboratories and parking. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the city a $21.3 million Hope VI grant for the revitalization of the eight-acre parcel.