The Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 18, 2000
December 18, 2000
VOL. 30, NO. 15


Downtown Center Is Set to Open

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Baltimore's financial district will soon shine a little brighter as the university is ready to flip on the switch of the new Downtown Center of the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.

The glass-sheathed facility, located at the southwest corner of Charles and Fayette streets, is set to open on Jan. 2, 2001, when intersession classes begin. The 35,000-square-foot building replaces the former, smaller Downtown Center located several blocks north at Charles and Saratoga streets.

"Since it is surrounded by much taller buildings, we needed to design a structure that would hold its own," said architect Steve Ziger of the new Downtown Center, which is sheathed in glass.

Ralph Fessler, dean of SPSBE, said the new center, an "architectural gem," represents a renewed commitment to the university's partnership with the downtown business community.

"The programs housed in this building will provide a service to the people working in the community and help to support local companies," Fessler said. "It's also a beautiful architectural addition to the neighborhood, and it is my thinking that in a very short time this new center will become one of the most noticeable and admired buildings in the downtown area."

Abundant in light and glass, the three-story building, designed by Baltimore architectural firm Ziger/Snead, was fashioned to glow like a "lantern" at night. The top two stories are walled in a frosted, translucent glass, and the street level is outfitted in granite and clear glass. The center also displays an exterior Bloomberg News ticker that will scroll up-to-date financial information, bringing a bit of Times Square to Charm City.

Among the building's other notable features are the majestic three-story lobby and the panoramic views offered on the upper floors.

Architect Steve Ziger said his intention was to create a dynamic, inviting facility that was appropriate to Hopkins.

"Since it is surrounded by much taller buildings, we needed to design a structure that would hold its own," Ziger said. "That led us to design a building that was somewhat scaleless. In a sense we blurred the boundaries between floors so it could become this glowing, glass sculpture object that enhances the entire property."

Located in the former Hamburger's department store building, the center is the new administrative headquarters for SPSBE's Graduate Division of Business and Management and home to graduate programs in business, management and information technology. The center will house approximately 40 full-time faculty and staff.

Eva Lane, director of the Downtown Center, said the need for "more and better quality space" is what precipitated the plans for a new facility.

Director Eva Lane in the three-story lobby.

"The school has changed dramatically since the old Downtown Center was opened in 1987," Lane said. "That space was becoming inadequate, and we felt that, in order to grow, we needed a more visible presence and a more usable environment. This center provides both. It's going to be nice for us who work here and great for our students."

Inside, the building contains office space, seven "smart" classrooms, several conference rooms, a bookstore, a library, two computer labs and the 180-seat Jean and Allan L. Berman Auditorium.

Each classroom can seat 35 and is equipped with a multimedia-ready podium, Internet connections and a projection screen. The two MBA "case study" classrooms have tiered seating to facilitate student interaction. When both computer labs are occupied, students can use one of the 12 computer workstations spread throughout the building.

"I think this building's design creates a wonderful atmosphere for our students and visitors," said Lane, who envisions bringing back a noon lecture series to the Downtown Center. "Plus, being right here in what is considered the financial district just exemplifies what we have to offer. People can look out and feel they are really in the heart of this city."

The university has signed a 10-year lease on the property, owned by Baltimore Orioles majority owner and university trustee Peter Angelos, who pledged $2.6 million to the Downtown Center's development.

Fessler said the university owes him a debt of thanks.

"Mr. Angelos and my predecessor, Stanley Gabor, had a wonderful vision for this facility and, thanks to their support and vision, they were instrumental in making this happen," Fessler said.