Convergence festival brings Charles Village, Hopkins communities closer

There's nothing like a good block party to bring the neighbors together.

In the case of the 7th annual Convergence Block Party on Sept 18, co-sponsored by Hopkins and the Charles Village Business Association, the neighbors were Johns Hopkins University students, Charles Village residents and area merchant.

For the better part of Sunday afternoon, the sidewalk on the east side of the 3200 block of St. Paul Street, anchored by the Village Lofts apartments, was filled with hundreds of people, from JHU freshmen to area families, all enjoying a deejay, a moon bounce, hot dogs, cotton candy and games ranging from a dunking booth to chess boards and a Quarterback Toss.

Also on hand were information tables for community associations and organizations, including the Greater Remington Improvement Association, the Charles Village Civic Association, the Charles Village Community Benefits District and the Greater Homewood Community Corp., as well tables for area businesses ranging from Graphic Imaging toCafe Hon.

That was a lot of foot traffic for stores and eateries on the block, including Verizon Wireless, Cold Stone Creamery and University Market & Deli.

Cafe Hon is in Hampden, but manager Thomas Whiting, the son of owner Denise Whiting, felt right at home.

"It's a great opportunity to be out here and meet the people," he said.

The food was free and the dunking booth raised money for the Village Learning Place, a community center and library. There were also drawings for prizes such as a $25 gift certificate to the Eddie's Market in Charles Village.

Hopkins has been making a push in recent years to integrate its students on the Homewood campus into the community, including opening Charles Commons, a student housing complex with a relocated Barnes & Noble campus bookstore on its street level. A 2006 article in the Johns Hopkins magazine was titled, "It takes a village — Charles Village — to make a college town."

Salem Reiner, Hopkins' director of community affairs, called the block party a way of "celebrating our community."

"We're looking to have better, stronger communities, which benefits us and the communities," said Reiner, who was one of the dunkees in the dunking booth.

Charles Village and Oakenshawe residents have had noise and other problems with Hopkins students over the years. Hopkins created the position of student/community liaison in 2005 in an effort to improve relations between students and the community.

"I'd say things are significantly improved," Reiner said.

David Hill, executive director of the benefits district, a special taxing district, saw the block party as beneficial for everyone involved.

"It's important to Hopkins to get students out" into the community, Hill said. "It's important to us to get information out."

While students posed for photos with the Hopkins Blue Jays mascot, Craig Brandt wandered along the block taking his own photos. His son, Gabriel is doing post doctorate work at Hopkins and lives in Guilford.

The block party gave Brandt, of the Boston area, a sense of deja vu.

"We had one of these last week," he said.

Helping to serve hot dogs and cotton candy was block party volunteer Saksham Gupta, a freshman at Hopkins.

"It brings the different student groups together, and it's good for the community, too," Gupta said.

Spinning music from Bruno Mars to Van Morrison was real estate agent John Spurrier, 50, a Charles Village resident who used to have his own deejay business as a then-Loyola College student.

Spurrier said the block party was important, because, "It gives Hopkins students and residents a chance to interact with one another in nice setting and in a non-confrontational way."

And he said, "It keep us young."

College students often get a bad rap in surrounding communities because of "a few bad apples," Spurrier said.

"Of course, being a former student myself, I remember what it was like."

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad