Eastern High plan favored by community


Community leaders near the former Eastern High School unanimously supported yesterday Johns Hopkins University's plan to develop a satellite campus at the abandoned building across from Memorial Stadium.

"This will blend well within the neighborhood and hopefully enhance, not detract from the business area," said Sandy Sparks, executive director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp., a group of neighborhood associations near the stadium.

Community leaders had opposed another proposal, which called for a shopping center on the 26-acre site. Residents said the shopping center would hurt surrounding businesses.

"We're glad that it appears the community agrees," said Dennis O'Shea, a Hopkins spokesman. "The university is very appreciative of community support of our proposal for Eastern High. We think what we have in mind is a plus for the community and for the whole city.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is expected to approve the move within the next few weeks.

The centerpiece of the plan is the $11.5 million renovation of the vacant school building on East 33rd Street. Hopkins envisions surrounding the school with as many as five smaller buildings to create a complex that eventually would include 500,000 square feet.

When complete, the project would yield up to $250,000 in property taxes and contribute $200 million to the local economy annually, Hopkins estimates. An additional 2,500 jobs could be created in businesses citywide.

Proposed occupants of the campus, which is to be built in phases, include:

* A high school run by Kennedy Krieger Institute, a regional resource center for children with brain disorders.

* A 50,000-square-foot "Business Incubator Center" run by Dome Real Estate, a Hopkins affiliate.

* Up to 50,000 square feet of office space for administrative, academic and other university needs.

Hopkins offered to pay up to $2.175 million for the property, with an initial payment of $100,000 and additional payments made in phases as the space is built and occupied.

Residents rejected the proposal from a group of developers that wanted to tear down the school and build an $8.9 million shopping center called 33rd Street Station. Klein Development, SJS Development Co. and A & R Development Co. offered to pay $690,312 for the property, according to their proposal.

"We were aware that if Johns Hopkins would step forward we had a chance of losing this," said Louis Denrich, president of Valu Food. "We still feel that that area . . . does need a good shopping center. We will pursue other sites within the city."

Built in 1939, Eastern High was for many years the girls-only neighbor to a then all-boys City College across Loch Raven Boulevard.

Eastern was closed in 1986, its student body merged with Lake Clifton High School.

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