City agrees to swap land with Hopkins


After 12 meetings and roughly 60 hours of negotiations, the city signed an agreement yesterday to swap two pieces of East Baltimore property to create an affordable townhouse neighborhood on the former site of Church Hospital.

Residents of the adjacent Washington Hill community initially opposed the move but endorsed the request by city housing officials yesterday that will allow Johns Hopkins Hospital to take over the former Broadway Homes site in return for the Church Hospital site.

Hopkins intends to build offices, laboratories and a parking complex at Broadway and Fayette Street, on the former site of a tower and low-income apartments demolished last month.

"This was a unique effort and a true partnership," city Housing Commissioner Patricia C. Payne said after signing the pact.

Hopkins, which has been expanding throughout East Baltimore, held the option to buy the Church Hospital site. City officials approached them about the swap, hoping to use the property's position on a hill with a prime view of the city skyline to attract residents.

The plan hit a snag earlier this year when Washington Hill residents protested the deal, saying the city failed to include them in the plans. Residents feared that the 112 new houses - two-thirds of which will be offered to low-to-moderate income homeowners - would wreck their neighborhood's stability.

But after several meetings over the past month in which residents viewed detailed drawings, leaders from Citizens for Washington Hill joined Mayor Martin O'Malley yesterday to sign the agreement.

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