So long jackhammers, cement mixers and construction
crews. Hello laptops, eSuds and upperclassmen: After two
years of demolition and construction, the Homewood campus
is just days away from opening the doors to Charles
Commons, the highly anticipated residential, dining and
retail complex in the heart of Charles Village.
A herculean effort is under way to transform the
313,000-square-foot site from a hard-hat zone into a home
away from home for the Commons' first 618 residents, who
will move in Sunday and Monday, Sept. 3 and 4. They'll be
living in an innovative space full of high-tech
conveniences like eSuds, which will ping students' inboxes
when a washing machine is available in the laundry room and
again when their whites are done spinning. They'll have an
array of menu items to choose from at "3rd on 33rd," the
aptly named third-floor dining hall. And come late October,
a 29,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble Bookstore on the ground
floor will be a short elevator ride away.
But all the bells and whistles shouldn't distract from
the fact that the opening of Charles Commons is a momentous
occasion for Johns Hopkins, and is about much more than its
nifty perks and additional beds, according to
dean of undergraduate education. What it's really about,
she said, is a first step toward guaranteeing that Homewood
juniors and seniors who want university housing can get it.
Up till now, the freshman and sophomore classes have filled
the campus residence halls and upperclassmen have been on
"I think it's an important milestone," Burger said.
"We go to all this trouble to bring together this
extraordinarily talented and interesting group of students
and too soon give them no option but to disperse through
the Charles Village community. I think that's a shame and a
loss not only for individual students but for the
collective whole, too. If you disperse the students too
soon, you lose some of the educational advantage of having
such a bright and interesting group of students
That said, even Burger gets giddy about all that is
"uncommonly nice" about the Commons, a two-part structure
linked by a bridge.
"It's a handsome building on the outside," Burger
said. "The architecture — you just ride by the
building and it's so impressive. But the really important
thing is what's going to go on inside that building [to
elevate the undergraduate experience]."
The windows of the fitness center overlook
the lobby of the Charles Building. Across
the way is the game room.
And indeed the complex brings more than just students
together. Charles Commons brings the Homewood campus across
Charles Street into Charles Village, from the style of the
building to the brick pavers lining the sidewalk, mirroring
the pathways that crisscross the quads.
The Commons will also bring a faculty presence to
residential life. Amy Lynne Shelton, an assistant professor
in the Krieger School's
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences with a
joint appointment in Neurosciences in the School of
Medicine, will be the Charles Commons Faculty Fellow,
chosen from a sizable pool of interested applicants. The
whole family — she, her husband, Matt Lindsey (an
environmental specialist and mostly stay-at-home dad), and
their 13-month-old son, Ryan — will be moving in just
ahead of the students, as soon as their three-bedroom
apartment in the Charles Building is ready to go.
It's not a long-distance move for Shelton and her
family — they had been living in the nearby Halstead
at Guilford, formerly the Cambridge at 3900, and were
seeking a new place to live. Burger's letter seeking
candidates for the faculty fellow position arrived in the
mail just as they were about to enter the real estate
"I showed the letter to my husband, at first thinking
to myself, 'Who would really want to do this?'" Shelton
said. "But he looked at it and thought I was showing it to
him because I actually wanted to do it. So he said, 'This
sounds like something you'd like to do and would be good
at,' and he suggested that I go for it."
The timing for the new role was right. Shelton's
tenure as director of undergraduate studies for her
department was coming to an end, and as faculty fellow,
she'll be able to continue working closely with students.
Shelton will be responsible for developing both formal and
informal programs to engage students in educational,
cultural, recreational and social pursuits to help foster a
sense of community among the residents.
"I just like getting to know students," Shelton said.
"It's hard to get to know them outside of the classroom,
partly because we don't always make enough of an effort.
It's not usually something we get to do, to know them
personally. I want to show them that we are people, too,
with lives and families."
A painter adds a splash of color during
the last weeks of construction.
Shelton and her family will live in their rent-free
second-floor apartment in the Charles Building for at least
two years, with the possibility of extending their stay for
a third year. She said she is looking forward to sharing
her passions — movies and music — through movie
nights and ad hoc ensembles where she can play her flute
with other musicians living in Charles Commons. She also
hopes to host cooking demonstrations and group dinners.
Logistical and administrative support in planning such
events will come from her new next-door neighbor, Kourtney
Bennett, the graduate assistant for Charles Commons.
Bennett is a student in biochemistry at the
Bloomberg School of Public
Health. A resident director and 12 community assistants
will also live in the building.
All the students in Charles Commons have single rooms,
and the price is the same whether they are living in two-
or four-person suites, all of which have common spaces and
kitchenettes. Leases in the 10-story St. Paul Building run
for nine months, and the rate is $7,892. During the summer,
the spaces will be used for conferences. Students who
prefer an 11-month lease can be accommodated in the
12-story Charles Building. The lease starts in September
and ends July 31, and costs $9,647.
A lot of the social activities in Charles Commons will
naturally center around the dining facility and its
adjacent conference rooms. Set to open Sept. 3, 3rd on 33rd
will feature food stations named Crisp, the Grille,
Passport (international foods), the Hearth (Old World
favorites) and Finales (coffee and desserts).
"We hope that 3rd on 33rd will become a hangout space
for all Hopkins students," Burger said. "It will be great
food in a great venue — there's a stage in the
corner, soft seating, pool tables and a fireplace. I hope
that in some ways it will provide student union services,
where it will be open late in the evening and if you are
home late from the library and have a case of the hungries,
you can stop by and see your friends."
Other amenities include a fitness center, game room,
music practice rooms, lounge areas, group study rooms and a
community kitchen and patio for student use.
The bridge between the two buildings will have a
security station with a guard on duty 24 hours a day. A
roving security guard will also be assigned to the building
for 16 hours each day. There are security cameras networked
to the campuswide security monitoring system and intercoms
at the entrances so the guard at the bridge desk can see
and talk to those nonresidents who request access to the
David McDonough of
Johns Hopkins Real Estate and Jim Miller of
Facilities Management check out a common
The big draw for the community — the Barnes &
Noble Bookstore — is set to open Oct. 23, according
to David McDonough, senior director of development
Johns Hopkins Real Estate. With its entrance on the
corner of 33rd and St. Paul streets, the two-story space
will feature general retail services on the main floor
— books, a coffee bar serving Starbucks coffee,
magazines and Johns Hopkins paraphernalia. The second floor
will be dedicated to textbooks for Homewood courses. Johns
Hopkins-themed murals and notable quotes will decorate the
entire store, McDonough said.
When it opens, it's likely that the bookstore will be
the highlight of what Charles Commons represents to the
administration — as Krieger School Dean Adam Falk put
it, "the integration of students and student life into the
fabric of the Charles Village community."
"The line between the experience in the classroom and
the experience on campus is a porous one; one affects the
other," Falk said. "We've been working to get students to
see themselves as neighbors, and they've been very
responsive. We want them to see Charles Village as an
extension of campus and for the residents to see Johns
Hopkins as part of their neighborhood."
The project was developed by a Struever Bros. Eccles &
Rouse-led team called the Collegetown Development Alliance.
Ayers Saint Gross was responsible for the project's master
plan and the building's facade, and Design Collective
designed the interiors of the student housing. Both are
Baltimore architectural firms.