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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 29, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 5
First Look at Charles Village Project

The view from East 33rd Street: An 11-story building on North Charles Street, left, adjoins a 10-story one at St. Paul Street.

Schematic drawings show two brick buildings linked by a bridge

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The much anticipated mixed-use complex located across from the Charles Street entrance to the university's Homewood campus has recently entered the design/development phase.

The Charles Village Project will feature student housing, parking and ground-floor retail space, anchored by a new JHU bookstore. The university-owned site is an L-shaped portion of the block north of East 33rd Street between North Charles and St. Paul streets. The project is scheduled for completion by the fall semester of 2005.

In January, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc. and Birmingham, Ala.-based Capstone Development Corporation were chosen to develop the project, one that would serve the needs of both the university and area residents.

Two Baltimore architectural firms, Ayers Saint Gross and Design Collective, were selected to design the project. Ayers Saint Gross is responsible for the project's master plan and the buildings' facades; Design Collective will design the interiors of the student housing.

The undertaking grew out of a decision several years ago to move the university bookstore out of a hard-to-find and too small location in the basement of Gilman Hall and into Charles Village, where it will be better able to serve the community as well as Johns Hopkins students and faculty. The university later determined that zoning for the proposed bookstore site would allow for more extensive development, including much needed student housing.

On Sept. 16, the board of trustees' Buildings and Grounds Committee approved moving the project forward to the detailed design phase and the development of a final financing plan.

The mixed-use facility, seen here from the corner of North Charles and East 33rd streets, will house 615 students, the university's bookstore and other retail spaces.

Adrienne Bell, a development director at Struever Bros. and the Charles Village Project manager, said that schematic designs for the site have just been completed and the project is moving ahead on schedule. Bell said that while it is too early in the process to offer definitive details, the site's architectural and development program is taking shape.

The complex includes two buildings linked by a bridge at the third floor. The building facing Charles Street is predominantly student housing, with ground-floor retail facing 33rd Street. The building's height is projected to be 11 stories, matching the neighboring Charles apartment building. The St. Paul Street building is planned to be a 10-story structure that includes a two-story bookstore as the retail anchor. The upper floors will include a state-of-the-art student dining facility and student housing. In total, the 350,000-square-foot complex will house approximately 615 students.

In terms of physical appearance, Bell said that the goal is to "relate the buildings back to the Homewood campus, as well as the local context of Charles Village." She said that prominent exterior features will be brick, with cornice elements and a strong base. A preliminary rendering of the site depicts a tree-lined block with buildings that feature awnings and storefront windows providing ample street frontage for the retail uses.

Bell also said that the look and feel of the Johns Hopkins Charles Village Project will relate to that of a nearby Struever Bros. project, the redevelopment of the east and west sides of the 3200 block of St. Paul Street, which will include ground-floor retail, market-rate apartments and condominiums, office space and structured parking. Its completion is expected at the end of 2005.

"A goal of the master plan for our Charles Village projects is to create a safe and inviting pedestrian environment in this community," Bell said. "We want to develop sites that tie together the different elements of the district through the streetscape."

In February, Struever Bros. created the Charles Village Task Force, which consists of representatives from surrounding community and business associations, and area nonprofits and institutions. The task force meets regularly to review and discuss plans for the two projects. A schedule of upcoming meetings can be found at

James McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration, said the "substantial engagement" of Johns Hopkins with its surrounding communities began with the development of the Homewood campus master plan and has carried over to the Charles Village Project.

"This project represents the marrying of our objectives to better serve the Hopkins community--its students, faculty and staff--and to relate felicitously with our neighbors," McGill said. "We are grateful for the vigorous and effective involvement of our neighbors in the planning for this important new development."

Bell said that Struever Bros. has incorporated numerous changes based on community feedback and the last six months of meetings with the Charles Village Task Force.

Salem Reiner, the university's coordinator of community affairs, said the university's intention from the start was to make this redevelopment an open process in which area residents could interface directly with the developers and Johns Hopkins.

"There has been a tremendous amount of community involvement up until this point, and that certainly will continue as opportunities present themselves through the rest of [the design and development phase]. The community response for the most part has been very positive," Reiner said. "From the beginning, there has been some concern about the redeveloped site's physical presence in the community and how it might change the feeling of that block; along those lines have been concerns of an increase in traffic density, so those are issues on which the developers and everyone else involved are working very hard. We want to make this a pedestrian-friendly type of facility."

The structures currently on the Charles Village Project site include a university-owned house at 3301 N. Charles St., which is now being used for offices; Ivy Hall on 33rd Street; and the Homewood Garage on St. Paul Street. All will be demolished in mid-to-late January. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2004, with occupancy scheduled for August 2005.

Bell said that for a project like this, the challenge is to meet the needs of both client and community.

"In this case, we are very fortunate in that a lot of the university's goals and desires matched with the community's goals and desires. Everyone wants to see this new bookstore opened," she said. "Both sides at this point seem pleased with how plans are shaping up. We've responded to community concerns about building height and massing, and we feel we are still able to meet all of Hopkins' programming needs."

Bell said that when the construction dust finally clears, both sides should be very happy with the result.

"The big reward for Johns Hopkins when this project is completed is that it will have a new state-of-the-art facility to better attract students," she said. "Meanwhile, the community will have a fabulous bookstore that will stir foot traffic in and anchor the existing retail area in Charles Village. The new streetscape will also be a dramatic improvement."


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