New life in the city
So, what about that hip Hopkins college town atmosphere? Don't remember it? Never heard of it? Good reason.
"This has been dull," admits Jerry Gordon, president of Eddie's Market, 3117 St. Paul Street, one of a few Charles Village merchants who recently renovated businesses. "Maybe we're part of the reason. There's been lots of criticism that there's no college town.
"Now," he adds, "we're creating something."
Hopkins students, Charles Village residents, and area merchants have long questioned why the streets around the Homewood campus aren't packed with collegiate shops and coffee houses ˆ la Harvard Square. A primary cause has been restrictive commercial zoning. Then there's the city's depressed real estate market, limited parking, crime concerns, and general inertia.
"The fact that we have a shuttle to go to The Rotunda [shopping center] shows the dearth of interesting things to do [nearby]," says John L. Davis, director of the Hopkins Office of University Real Estate. "We want to keep people in the neighborhood."
This year may end an era of listlessness in the business district near the Homewood campus. Two Baltimore area restaurants, J.P. Henry's and Donna's, moved into the 3100 block of St. Paul this fall. Both cafés, like the now gourmet-oriented Eddie's, offer trendy cuisine.
Hopkins is creating about 20,000 square feet of retail space in the renovated 1920s-era Homewood Apartments, at 3003 N. Charles Street. Plans call for retail spots--likely a restaurant, copy center, and shops. Though a few businesses may open by Christmas, full occupancy is expected in the spring.
The Homewood Apartments, which has 124 new student apartments, also will house some faculty and administrative offices. Hopkins also has plans under way for a new student arts center nearby on Charles Street.
"It's pioneer development," says Dominic Wiker, economic development coordinator at the Charles Village Community Benefits District. "There'll be a little city centered around Hopkins."
Charles Village activists opened development doors by getting city approval that will enable them to attract private businesses, such as book stores, bicycle shops, clothing boutiques, barber shops, or newstands to St. Paul Street. That process, many predict, will be slow.
"I'd like to see the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker come here and make this a shopping destination," says Alice Brock, who added outdoor café tables and an indoor eatery to Images, her card shop across from Eddie's.
"It would be a major selling point in terms of attracting students," says Paul White, director of Undergraduate Admissions. "The schools we compete with, like Harvard, have a certain college town atmosphere." --Joanne P. Cavanaugh
Bidding irregularities spark
According to a report by KPMG Peat Marwick, an outside auditor hired by Hopkins, the university overpaid "several hundred thousand dollars" since 1992 to Thermal Services Inc. (TSI) for work that was never done or was billed significantly above market rates. The university will likely sue to recoup the losses, officials say.
Two employees in Hopkins's Office of Facilities and Real Estate were fired, and another left amid controversy. The charges of kickbacks and fraud also prompted a flurry of press coverage. The Baltimore Sun reported that Robert J. Schuerholz, then-facilities director, was fired for gross misconduct after allegations surfaced in an April lawsuit between two warring partners at TSI. In early fall, the FBI opened a criminal investigation, says Larry Foust, FBI spokesman.
Schuerholz's attorney, James P. Ulwick, disputed the reasons for the dismissal and says his client denies any wrongdoing: "Mr. Schuerholz was a hard-working and dedicated employee for Hopkins for many years. He worked to save the university millions of dollars."
University policy and federal guidelines require officials to accept the lowest responsive bids, with some flexibility for special project needs. Such bids in multimillion-dollar construction projects have traditionally been reviewed by senior administrators and trustees.
But for smaller repair and maintenance bids, contracts were often approved by Schuerholz alone, university officials say. TSI had received about $500,000 a year to install and repair heating and ventilation. Now, such jobs will go through several checkpoints, including administrators in facilities, purchasing, and the university's senior vice president.
Hopkins tightened controls pending recommendations by the outside auditor, whose report also raised smaller questions about other contracts. These questions are currently being reviewed by the university.
Hopkins officials publicly discussed the investigation to reassure firms that the university plans to operate fairly. "We want quality vendors and bidders to be confident that Hopkins appreciates their abilities and skills and is open to doing business," says John J. Lordan, interim senior vice president for administration. --JC
Dust settles at the MSE
Perhaps a message anonymously inked on a board at Homewood's Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Library says it best: "Renovation is my name: Creating havoc is my game."
A $5 million library renovation was finished this fall. For 18 months, students, faculty, and staff faced frustrations as collections were shifted around, stairs closed, asbestos removed, and new construction completed--to the constant tune of power drills. The construction mascot, Norman Nailer (a colored pencil drawing of a book, bearing a hammer and hardhat), gave renovation updates.
Today, the entrance lobby is open and inviting, with overstuffed chairs and couches. Scholars can soon connect laptop computers in carrels or at study tables. And a new computer room equipped with 18 new PCs offers Internet access.
Most research librarians are on the main entrance level, instead of scattered about. The reserve room has been scrapped, allowing students to read reserve materials anywhere in the library. The building is now handicapped accessible, and it should no longer leak when it rains.
"A lot of the changes are not obvious but relate to infrastructure," says Jim Neal, Sheridan Director of the MSE. "There was major asbestos removal, air-conditioning and heating work, new telecommunications, improvements for the disabled, new furniture, and computer access."
Says M.J. Miller, associate director of development, "The renovation updates the library's technology and makes the building a little easier to understand. We wanted to open things up. The way the building was built, it tended to get dreary."
The renovation price tag, originally slated at $4.6 million hit $5 million, due to increased costs for asbestos removal, rewiring, and other fixes to the 185,000-square-foot building, officials said. All told, it's slightly more than the cost to build the library in 1964. The bill then: about $4.75 million.--JC
A presidential summit|
President William R. Brody christened Hopkins's new climbing wall by trying it out in September. Reaching for rocklike hand and foot holds, and wearing a harness, Brody scaled the 20-foot-high practice wall set up in a former squash court at the Newton H. White Jr. Athletic Center. After reaching the top, Brody called out, "Now how do I get down?" Someone answered below, "Hold him there until he gives us all raises." The $40,000 wall made of plywood and steel was built as part of renovations to the athletic center, which also include refinished squash and basketball courts. The wall offers a range of difficulties. Brody rappelled down safely. --JC
On my honor...
"Those are simple parameters, but in a competitively charged atmosphere like Johns Hopkins, they are not always simply achieved," Brody said. "It is very easy here to feel tremendous pressure to do well, and there are sometimes very real temptations to do well by doing whatever it takes."
The class of 940 freshman and transfer students hit a median SAT score of 1360, one of the highest ever. Six out of 10 applicants for each slot were turned away this year, making it one of the most selective classes in Hopkins history, said Brody, who called the class "extraordinary."
He cautioned the high achievers against seeing enemies where they don't exist. "Don't fall into the trap of thinking the way to do well is to see to it others do poorly. The object of the next four years is not to quash your enemies." --JC
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