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Retail, housing come together as complex near JHU adds finishing touches

Baltimore Messenger

This fall some exciting things are in store for the Charles Village area. Johns Hopkins University students, faculty and the adjoining neighborhoods have been watching a new project take shape on the corner of 33rd and St. Paul streets that should add some pizazz to this part of Baltimore.

The Nine East 33rd project includes new restaurants; a drugstore, the brand new CVS Pharmacy; and retail stores, all of which have been putting the finishing touches on their sites. Some are local favorites and some are new to Baltimore.

The project is a joint private venture between Armada Hoffler Properties, of Virginia Beach, Va., and Beatty Development Group, a firm based in Baltimore, on property owned by Johns Hopkins University.

The recently completed residential part of the development has 157 one-, two-, three and four-bed units with a total of 568 beds, primarily for junior and senior university students. Some four-bedroom apartments are still available, according to the developers.

"The vision behind Nine East 33rd is to offer our students both community and convenience," said Kevin Shollenberger, Johns Hopkins' vice provost for student affairs. "It's close to campus and to all the amenities of Charles Village. It allows juniors and seniors the option to continue living together and building the friendships that will last the rest of their lives."

In recent years, Johns Hopkins has made a priority the need to upgrade retail offerings and services in the area surrounding the campus.

With a modern design that puts the average student housing to shame, the building offers residents a media room with a large-screen television and gaming system, study rooms throughout, a separate student game area with a lounge and pool table, and an interior bike room that can secure up to 100 bicycles.

Susan Spieksma, 20, an international student from Holland majoring in dual sciences, had high praise for her new digs. "It's amazing," she said with a big smile.

Students will need a key fob to gain access and there is a manned front reception desk. "This is a very secure facility," said Alex Olson, associate development manager for Armada Hoffler.

Chef Spike Gjerde, who has become well known in Baltimore for his farm-to-table mantra, is opening his newest creation, Bird In Hand, at Nine East 33rd. Gjerde has joined forces with The Ivy Bookshop to offer an "Austrian-inspired" cafe where people can come relax and hang out, browse books, eat and attend some of the planned events that will be offered, such as literary readings.

"My hope is to bring what we created at Artifact Coffee," Gjerde said, referencing the Hampden coffee shop, "and that the Charles Village community, and the Johns Hopkins community can take advantage of that."

The building has a total of eight retail spaces; five leases have been signed, and three additional quick-service restaurants and stores that offer neighborhood goods and services are being considered.

The CVS Pharmacy opened Aug. 28. Bird In Hand is slated for a late-October opening. Honeygrow, a restaurant out of Philadelphia that specializes in stir-fries and salads, is due to open in early November, and Towson Hot Bagels plans to open in the first quarter of 2017.

David Forster, 24, a 2014 Johns Hopkins graduate, plans to open his restaurant, PekoPeko (which is the onomatopoeia for a growling stomach), a Japanese-style ramen shop, early next year as well. Forster spent his formative years in Tokyo and said he wanted to bring the Japanese comfort food to Baltimore.

Forster will be the chef, having apprenticed with well-known ramen chef Shigetoshi Nakamura in Manhattan. "I would like it [PekoPeko] to be a destination for a great ramen experience," he said.

On the menu will be a chicken broth-based ramen, a rice bowl option and Japanese-inspired side dishes. [Note: In Japan, it's considered polite, and even encouraged, to noisily slurp one's ramen.]

"Everything on the menu will be what you could find in a traditional Japanese ramen shop," Forster said.

Negotiations are also underway for a full-service restaurant that could be opening its doors sometime in early 2017.

Residents of the Charles Village neighborhood are also looking forward to their new neighbors. Sandra Sparks, president of the Charles Village Civic Association and a lifelong resident, said she's been getting a lot of positive feedback about the quality of the design.

"I think it will create a destination for people to come to this part of Charles Village," she said about the project. "There was a serious deficiency of local food places; this mix [of restaurants] will appeal to the diversity of the people who live in the neighborhood and the adjoining area."

In a recent email, Tony Nero, president of development for Armada Hoffler, said the company is "thrilled" to bring a mix of retailers to the neighborhood and that the project should "enhance the quality of life" for residents, students, faculty and staff. "Our hope is that this transformational project will contribute to the area's renaissance and further strengthen the connection between campus and community," he wrote.

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