Hopkins to buy two buildings near its campus


Continuing its expansion in Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins University said yesterday that it would purchase the former Seton High School and adjacent Dell House Apartments just south of its Homewood campus.

Details of the deal to buy the buildings from Sheppard Pratt Health System were not disclosed. But the university said the buildings, which are used as offices and apartments, will continue to be rented to the current tenants in the short term.

Hopkins is already one of the largest property owners in the city, and Baltimore's largest employer with more than 35,000 workers.

Officials said in February that the school intended to buy the 68-acre corporate campus of the St. Paul Cos. in Mount Washington on the city-Baltimore County line to use as administrative offices.

They said at the time that Hopkins had added 1,000 jobs in each of the past three years and would continue growing.

The Mount Washington deal closed yesterday and workers will begin to move in late this year or early next year, according to a spokesman for the university. Brokers at Collier Pinkard real estate company will look for new offices for the St. Paul Cos. in the region.

Hopkins' newest purchases on the west side of North Charles Street between 28th and 29th streets are the latest effort by the university to control and improve housing and shopping opportunities for students and residents of the adjacent neighborhood of Charles Village.

"The neighborhoods surrounding Homewood are very important to the future of the university, and we are working with our neighbors in a number of ways to enhance these wonderful residential and shopping communities," James T. McGill, Hopkins' senior vice president for finance and administration, said in a statement.

"This deal is another way of saying that we're here to stay, we're investing in the community and we're committed to the future of the Greater Homewood area."

The Seton High School building, now a 67,000-square-foot office called Seton Court, is leased to Argus Group Inc., a subsidiary of ADP Automatic Data Processing Inc. that handles communications materials for financial services and health care industries.

Dell House is a 16-story, 37-unit apartment building with two floors of office space. Most of it is rented to Hopkins students. The deal includes a 170-space parking lot adjacent to the two buildings.

Hopkins said the ultimate use of the two-building, 2.3-acre property would depend on compatibility with the neighborhood and the university's future needs, such as moving programs out of rented space or consolidation of programs into one space.

"In the short term, there are no plans to change tenants. The longer term is not clear. There could be university uses at some point that would be academic- related in the Seton building," said Denis O'Shea, a university spokesman.

"At the Dell property, we see it remaining as an apartment building. I believed it's fully leased, primarily with students. We'd continue to rent it to students and the public, not operate it as a residence hall."

Sheppard Pratt Health System acquired the two buildings in 2000 for a combined $4 million. Their assessed value now is about $4.8 million, according to state land records. Hopkins said it used money from its investments to pay for the properties.

Not including these properties or the St. Paul campus, Hopkins said it occupies about 12 million square feet of space in Baltimore. That includes its Homewood and East Baltimore campuses and leased space around the city. The university pays property taxes only on the buildings that have commercial uses.

Also recently, Hopkins announced that it would move about 220 employees from its medical campus to leased space in Fells Point and downtown.

It also has moved administrative offices and more than 300 employees into renovated space at the former Eastern High School on East 33rd Street that it bought from the city.

In the past few years, Hopkins has embarked on a plan to renovate buildings surrounding the Homewood campus to add shops, restaurants and housing. A new bookstore is in the works.

O'Shea said he did not know of any other acquisition plans.

Bonnie Katz, a spokeswoman for Sheppard Pratt Health System, confirmed that the sale of the two Charles Street buildings was under way.

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