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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 10, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 25
'Research City' to Rise on 600 Acres

A new Johns Hopkins campus will be a key component

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins wants to help pave the way for a "research city" in Montgomery County, Md., that would rival top-flight facilities in Palo Alto, Calif., Cambridge, Mass., and around the globe. The university has outlined its intention in what is known as Vision 2030, a plan to create a 600-acre world-class science community in the Shady Grove area, which is located along the Interstate 270 corridor. While Johns Hopkins will play a pivotal role in the site's development, the Vision 2030 project is a collaborative effort that involves all relevant stakeholders from academia, business, the community and state and local governments.

The project would encompass the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, where the JHU Montgomery County Campus is located, and the university's planned Belward Research Campus.

The 108-acre Belward Research Campus will be a key component of the project. Located less than a mile from the Montgomery County Campus, the new campus will incorporate a mixture of education, business and government facilities that will work together to further scientific discovery and translational research. JHU plans to build nearly 5 million square feet of research space on the site.

"We are trying to create something new here for applied and translational research," said Elaine Amir, executive director for Johns Hopkins Montgomery County and the project representative from the Provost's Office. "We envision a global center that will draw people from as far away as China and India. It will be more than just a collection of buildings; it will be a community where scientists can interact with one another and be part of a bigger venture."

Johns Hopkins acquired the Belward property in January 1989 from Elizabeth Banks, a former elementary school teacher whose family, through illness, forged a strong relationship with physicians from The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The university originally acquired 138 acres, but in September 1997, with Banks' approval, sold 30 acres to Montgomery County.

Banks lived on the property until she died in 2005, at which point the university began in earnest to re-evaluate its decade-old development plan.

David McDonough, senior director of development oversight for Johns Hopkins Real Estate, said that it became clear early on that to build a true world-class research community, Johns Hopkins would need to partner with the greater community and look beyond the Belward Research Campus.

"Other world-class research centers, particularly in Asia, are being planned and built on a completely different scale. Biopolos in Singapore, for example, is about the size of downtown Baltimore," McDonough said. "We are working from an area of strength, however. The Baltimore- Washington region has the largest concentration of scientists in the country; quite frankly, the world. With Vision 2030, we wanted to take advantage of this and create a world-class research cluster."

Montgomery County currently has the nation's third-highest concentration of biotechnology firms and is the world's largest center for gene research. The county also boasts a concentration of 19 federal research and regulatory agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

In December 2007, Vision 2030 project leaders began to solicit community feedback and start the process of creating a master plan. To date, three informal community meetings and one two-day workshop have been held so that university officials could outline the project to stakeholders, who could ask questions and share concerns.

On Feb. 21, the Montgomery County Campus hosted a Design Principles Presentation where community members were invited to share their input for a concept plan for the project.

"We had homeowners, property owners and others with a vested interest," Amir said. "We asked them what they would like to see here, not just in terms of research but what community services they would want to have."

McDonough said that project leaders are currently working on transportation and zoning issues. The project could create 20 million to 30 million square feet of development space and attract roughly 40,000 to 60,000 new people to the area during the next 25 years. With that in mind, McDonough said that infrastructure is key to making this project a reality.

"There needs to be more housing, and an effective transportation network for those who will be coming here in the morning and leaving in the evening," he said. "That means a mass transit system and a new road network. This is what we are working on now with state and county officials."

McDonough said that the current goal is to present a concept plan sometime in late April or early May. The first draft of a master plan would be made available in May or June.

Following zoning approval, the master plan would be presented to elected officials in late 2008 or early 2009.

If all goes according to plan, McDonough said that the project could be approved by mid-2009 with actual construction commencing later that year.


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