The foundation for a new office and laboratory complex is taking shape in East Baltimore near Johns Hopkins Hospital — a project expected to bring jobs and create needed space for fledgling biotech companies.
Although crews have already begun work on the foundation for 1812 Ashland, where a crane lowered supplies to workers in hard hats and neon vests Friday, just beyond a chain link fence local leaders held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $65.6 million facility.
The 165,000-square-foot building, located at 1812 Ashland Ave., will provide space for life sciences companies and entrepreneurial firms once it is completed. The target date is July 2016.
Tenants have already committed to occupy about 70 percent of the building, including spinoff ventures from the nearby Johns Hopkins campus, according to Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership, which is developing the seven-story structure and will own and manage it.
One tenant will be FastForward East, a Hopkins-affiliated commercial incubator. In addition to labs and office space, officials said, the building will include 2,000 square feet of retail space to serve workers and residents in the Middle East neighborhood.
"Just to see it in reality … it is truly awe-inspiring," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at the groundbreaking.
The project will not only help reach her goal of growing the city by 10,000 families, the mayor said, it will offer economic opportunity for current residents and reasons for them to remain in Baltimore. She said the project will build on the city's existing reputation for attracting tech startups.
Ronald J. Daniels, president of the Johns Hopkins University, said the project will bring and create jobs, which is key to the area's continuing redevelopment. The area around the hospital is being redeveloped under the auspices of the public-private East Baltimore Development Inc.
Daniels noted that recent unrest in the city has spurred debate about the success of revitalization efforts elsewhere, but he said that unlike other efforts, the 1812 Ashland building will help promote jobs in the EBDI area.
"It's not enough just to rebuild homes," he said, or schools. "The cornerstone of a healthy community has to be jobs."
1812 Ashland is the third of seven life sciences buildings planned for the area, along with a central park and housing.
Among those in the crowd at Friday's groundbreaking was Wendy Y. Yap of CDI Laboratories, who said the new space would be a good opportunity for the growing company, which is studying the use of proteins in health care. It currently leases space across the street at the Rangos Building, which houses other research labs and offices.
"We're getting to the point where we want to grow further," she said.