After months of deliberation, the Schmoke administration has selected the Johns Hopkins University to be the developer of the former Eastern High School property on 33rd Street in Baltimore. Representatives for the city and the university signed documents this week that give Hopkins officials six months to study the 26-acre parcel and determine whether to proceed with their plans to redevelop it as an extension of the Homewood campus.
Hopkins was one of two groups that bid for the city-owned property opposite Memorial Stadium after the Baltimore Development Corp. issued a request for proposals in January.
Its plan called for the high school, built in 1939 and vacant since 1986, to be recycled at a cost of $11.5 million to house a combination of educational and administrative space.
Hopkins proposed ringing the renovated school with as many as five smaller buildings to create a complex that eventually would contain 500,000 square feet of office and academic space. The entire project could represent an investment of $40 million and bring 1,500 employees to the area.
The other bidder was a development consortium that wanted to tear down the school and build an $8.9 million strip shopping center -- an idea that drew strong opposition from representatives of surrounding communities.
Michele Whelley, executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said Hopkins was chosen because its proposal was determined to be "stronger and more sensitive to the needs of the community" than its competitor's.
She said the selection marked "the culmination of several months of very positive discussions" involving Hopkins, the city, the Development Corp. and various community groups over the use of the property.
"BDC will now move forward with planning for the project together with Johns Hopkins and the community," she said.
Dennis O'Shea, a university spokesman, said the city and the university signed an "exclusive negotiating priority" that gives Hopkins until Dec. 31 to determine whether to move ahead with its project.
"It gives us a chance to look at the structural condition of the building, environmental issues, the availability of historic tax credits" and other subjects that may need to be resolved before any redevelopment work can begin, he said.
Proposed elements of the satellite campus, which is to be built in phases, include:
* A high school run by the 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.
Sandra Sparks, director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp., said Hopkins' plans were endorsed overwhelmingly by residents of neighborhoods around the school in a survey taken last spring.
"We see it as a real boon for economic development in the area," she said. "It will mean more houses sold, a bigger market for small businesses, new job opportunities. It will knit really well with the surrounding neighborhoods. It could even help revive Greenmount Avenue, with all the traffic that will be generated between the Homewood campus and Eastern."
Hopkins estimates that the project, when complete, would pay up to $250,000 in yearly property taxes and could pump $200 million into the local economy each year. About 2,500 jobs could be created in businesses citywide, according to its proposal.