In a vacant lot with the skyline of the JHMI campus providing the background, Mayor Martin O'Malley and various city, state and Johns Hopkins officials announced plans last week for the long-anticipated $200 million East Baltimore Development project, the cornerstone of which will be a 22-acre biotechnology research park.
The massive project--bounded by Broadway, Madison and Collington streets and the railroad tracks--is designed to radically transform the community north of the medical campus by enhancing public safety, creating new community and recreation services and providing new housing and employment opportunities. The plan comes as a result of a unique partnership between the Mayor's Office, the state of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition and the communities of East Baltimore.
The Hopkins officials involved with developing the strategy over the last 18 months were President William R. Brody; Edward Miller, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Ronald Peterson, president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System; Elias Zerhouni, executive vice dean for research in the School of Medicine; Sally MacConnell, vice president for facilities, JHH; and Richard Grossi, chief financial officer, JHM.
Upon its completion, the development will encompass 80 acres of a currently blighted area dotted with vacant lots and dilapidated buildings. Specifically, the plan calls for the addition of up to 1,500 new and rehabilitated residential units, new green space, up to 8,000 new jobs and various retail uses. The 2-million-square-foot biotech park will house 30 to 50 companies that are expected to develop a "synergistic" relationship with the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, O'Malley said.
"Today is the beginning of a great journey for East Baltimore and the entire city," the mayor told the nearly 100 gathered.
"This is not simply about a real estate development. This is about community development," he said. "Community means building up our schools, building up our job base, building up our housing and building up opportunities for our people."
O'Malley went on to laud Hopkins President William R. Brody for his leadership role, both in the development project and the university's expanding efforts to reach out to the community.
"[These neighborhoods] can be a tremendous force, and a tremendous power for positive change for East Baltimore," O'Malley said. "This leader has helped Johns Hopkins recognize that."
In an impassioned speech, Rep. Elijah Cummings offered perspective on the scale of the development.
"There will not be another project like this in most of our lifetimes," said Cummings, the 7th district congressman. "This is an historic moment in a wonderful place called East Baltimore."
Brody in his brief address praised the mayor for his action and pledged the university's commitment to the project. He then made reference to an earlier mention of Johns Hopkins as the world's top medical institution.
"We have been in the community for over 100 years. We want to be in the community for another 100 years. But I can assure you that Johns Hopkins will not be number one unless we have a vibrant and vital community," Brody said. "Fortunately, we have a mayor who has the vision for transforming a challenge into a great opportunity. We look forward to this partnership with the community, with the city government, the state government, the federal government and with the various local organizations, many of which are represented here today."
Steering the project will be the East Baltimore Development Inc., a nonprofit group to be overseen by an 11-member board, including two members to be selected by Johns Hopkins. Joseph Haskins, chairman and CEO of Harbor Bank of Maryland, will head the board.
The biotech park is seen as the "economic linchpin" of the entire development, with Johns Hopkins serving as the magnet to attract both emergent and established companies. The park will provide traditional laboratory and office space and also built-to-suit options for biological research companies, small-scale manufacturing firms, pharmaceutical firms and other businesses related to the biotech industry. The site will feature reconfigured, attractive streets and sidewalks that are in keeping with traditional city architecture.
To oversee tenancy of the biotech park, the East Baltimore Development Inc. will create a separate entity and board, to include Hopkins officials. The university also has signed a commitment to lease up to $1 million worth of space a year for 10 years, and a separate commitment to contribute an unspecified amount to a pool of private money that would supplement city funds to pay for relocation costs for an estimated 300 homeowners.
The current occupancy rate of houses in the area is less than 44 percent. Any homeowner whose property is acquired for the expansion is entitled to the appraised value of the house being vacated, actual moving costs and up to $70,000 in relocation benefits to purchase an East Baltimore home of comparable size, according to city officials. Homeowners relocating elsewhere are eligible for other compensation packages.
Construction is not expected to begin for another 12 to 18 months, during which time needed properties will be acquired. Officials have given a seven-to-10-year time frame for total build-out of the area.