By Larry Perl, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:36 PM EST, February 12, 2013
Johns Hopkins University is doing what Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse couldn't — developing a vacant lot in Charles Village.
Struever Bros. once planned to build The Olmsted, an $83 million, mixed-use development of condominiums, stores and a wraparound garage on the site in the 3200 block of St. Paul Street, where student housing and the University Mini-Mart used to be. But the economy soured and struggling Struever Bros. sold the 1.13-acre lot to Hopkins in 2009. Since then, Hopkins has done little with the lot except to clean it up, seed and fence it.
Now, JHU has chosen the development team of Armada Hoffler, Beatty Development Group and Skye Hospitality to lease the land from the university and develop a mixed-use retail and residential complex. Michael Beatty, former president of Harbor East Development Group, and Armada Hoffler, his former company, have jointly built more than 5.5 million square feet in Baltimore, Hopkins officials said.
No timetable is set for developing the Charles Village lot, and no decision has been made about whether to build condos or market-rate apartments there.
The development team will begin getting community input this winter about the project. In the meantime, Hopkins will let the city use the lot for metered parking to alleviate a parking shortage caused by the ongoing reconstruction of Charles Street.
Hopkins has been trying in recent years to make Charles Village more of a destination for Homewood students and wants to build on that with "distinctive retail" and more parking," said Alan Fish, vice president for facilities and real estate.
"For Hopkins, the vitality of Charles Village has a direct connection to the vitality of the Homewood campus," Fish said. He said that with other mixed-use projects planned in north Baltimore, from 25th Street Station in Remington to the redevelopment of the Rotunda mall, "there's a lot of traction going on right now," making such a project more viable in Charles Village than it was when "the market collapsed under" Struever Bros. in 2008. Hopkins decided to purchase the property as an investment for a time in the future when the economy improved, and now, "I think the times have changed," Fish said.
The proposed development dovetails with Hopkins' plan to spend$10 million over five years to strengthen and stabilize Oakenshawe and nine other communities near the Homewood campus as part of the university's Homewood Community Partners Initative.
In 2011, 25 Facebook friends picnicked on the lot, partly to draw attention to what they felt was Hopkins' inattention to the lot.
"It seemed like a waste of space," said co-organizer Nolan Strals, of Mount Vernon.