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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 30, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 1
Charles Commons to Open in '06

Charles Commons as viewed from 33rd Street. The two-story bookstore will be in the St. Paul Street Building at right.

Residence halls, bookstore envisioned as hub of east-side student life

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The fencing and concrete barriers are in place, the heavy haulers at the ready. The planning and preparation period is over, and work is under way on a new facility that will bolster housing options for Johns Hopkins students and foster a more college town-like atmosphere in Charles Village.

Next week, demolition work begins for Charles Commons, the Johns Hopkins University-owned mixed-use complex located on the L-shaped portion of the block north of East 33rd Street, between North Charles and St. Paul streets.

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

The facility, scheduled for completion by summer 2006, will house 618 students, a branch of the Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union and a full-service Barnes & Noble bookstore open to the public. The project is being developed by a Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse-led team called the Collegetown Development Alliance.

The complex includes two student-housing buildings linked by a walkway/bridge over Lovegrove Street. The 12-story Charles Street building will have 100,000 square feet of space and feature ground-floor retail facing 33rd Street. The St. Paul Street building will be 10 floors with 203,000 square feet of space, including a student dining facility and the two-story bookstore, which will sell magazines, CDs and sundries as well as textbooks and popular books. It also will have a coffee shop. The store will be triple the size of the existing Barnes & Noble, located in the basement of Homewood's Gilman Hall.

The facility's design includes ample amenity space for interaction, study and recreational interests. Common space includes a lounge and reading room, game room, multipurpose room, exercise room, music rooms, computer cluster, common kitchens, small group study/conference rooms and a laundry room.

Each floor will feature one or two generous lounges. Designed for upperclassmen, all the rooms are singles grouped in suites of two or four students. The four-person suites have two bathrooms and a living room. Two-person suites have one bathroom, and some will feature a living room. All the suites have kitchenettes with stovetop burners, a sink and a refrigerator.

Susan Boswell, dean of student life, said that while the addition of new student housing is important and meets a demand, the university's goal is to create something that is much more than a residence hall.

"We are hoping that this new facility will become a hub for undergraduate activity on the east side of Charles Street. The dining/common space is designed not only to provide a place to eat but a place to meet up with others, shoot a quick game of pool or enjoy live entertainment from the built-in stage," Boswell said. "We envision it becoming the late-night hangout that does not currently exist. It will add a much-needed dimension to student life at Homewood."

The structures currently on the Charles Commons site include a university-owned house at 3301 N. Charles St., Ivy Hall on 33rd Street and the Homewood Garage on St. Paul Street. All will be demolished.

Dominic Wiker, a development director for Struever Bros., said that demolition work will take roughly two and a half months. Foundation work will begin sometime in October. The Charles Street building will start going up in December, he said, and work on the St. Paul Street building will begin in February 2005.

Wiker said that the neighborhood can expect single-lane closings on St. Paul and 33rd streets during the lion's share of the construction period in order to accommodate equipment and vehicles.

In addition to Charles Commons, Struever Bros. will redevelop the east and west sides of the 3200 block of St. Paul Street with ground-floor retail, upper-floor condominiums and structured parking. Site work and demolition on the east site is scheduled to begin toward the end of 2004; west side site work is scheduled for the early part of 2005.

"There will also be some noise and dust for the better part of the next two years, but the end result will have a very positive impact on the community," he said. "This is the realization of a lot of hard work. This project will bring an important retail anchor to Charles Village and provide additional student housing to Johns Hopkins to better supply demand."

For more information on the projects, go to


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