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Johns Hopkins University to create "small campus" in Station North

Parkway Theatre in Baltimore
Parkway Theatre in Baltimore
Johns Hopkins University is putting $1 million toward a new fund that will offer low-interest loans to developers in the  surrounding communities. It is also looking for space in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District where it will move some of its film, writing and other creative programs to the emerging artists' neighborhood, about a mile south of its main Homewood campus. 
These are two initiatives it has launched since December, when the university announced that it is spending $10 million to boost schools, residential and commercial development and workforce programs in the neighborhoods that stretch from Homewood to Penn Station. Johns Hopkins — Baltimore City's largest employer — is looking more closely at how its real estate deals impact these neighborhoods and views its role as that of an "anchor institution". The university is working with city officials, businesses, the Central Baltimore Partnership and the Greater Homewood Community Corp. on the effort, known as the Homewood Community Partners Initiative. The initiative's goal is to bring 3,000 families to the 10 neighborhoods within 10 years.

The plan comes at a time when a number of big real estate projects are underway in the neighborhoods that Hopkins and its partners want to improve.
These projects include the following:
 • A $3 million redevelopment of the Chesapeake restaurant in Station North. The empty building will house a farm-to-table restaurant of the same name and a second Milk & Honey Market this year;
• Johns Hopkins University last month selected Armada Hoffler and Beatty Development Group LLC to bring shops and residences to the 1.13-acre parcel at 33rd and Saint Paul streets;
• Beatty Development has proposed a $500 million residential and commercial development around the Amtrak station; and,
• Seawall Development Corp. is rehabbing 2600 N. Howard St., which will house Single Carrot Theatre’s new home and a butcher shop/restaurant operated by Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike Gjerde.
Community leaders hope that Hopkins' can use its influence to help move projects like these along. Andrew B. Frank, Johns Hopkins University’s economic development advisor, says that role involves more than giving money.

“There are a lot of things Hopkins can do besides writing checks. We’re an agitator. Sometimes its helpful to say we’re a partner in relationships,” Frank says.
Still, he says it’s easier to convince others to put money on the table if Hopkins has already done so. “We want to eliminate the game of chicken of who’s going to be first,” Frank says.

With that in mind, the university has put the initial money toward a fund that will offer low — or even zero — interest loans to for-profit and nonprofit developers. It is seeking $10 million to $20 million from banks and foundations to add money to the pool. Banks are required by law to invest some money in low-income communities. The Central Baltimore Partnership will issue a request for proposal for a nonprofit — not affiliated with Hopkins in any way — to get the fund up and running within the next six months.
The money would go to developers who want to, say, lease a building to a theater or BYOB café and not, for instance, a convenience store. “The purpose is to find a project that is impactful and change perceptions of the area,” Frank says.

The city used to offer short-term loans — or so-called “gap financing” — to developers but it now has less money to do so. 

"The real estate market is strengthening, but it's not robust," says Joseph B. McNeely, executive director of the Central Baltimore Partnership. 
Having additional funding sources would help out developers like Ernst Valery, who is leading the $3 million Chesapeake
redevelopment and says that getting financing has been struggle. 
Hopkins has also teamed up with the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Maryland Film Festival in the $17 million redevelopment of the Parkway Theatre, which will hold performances, three screens and a 600-seat film center. The two universities would hold a component of their joint undergraduate film program that kicked off this winter.
“Hopkins has made a deliberate decision to have a presence in Station North, the heart of the arts’ district,” Frank says.
After announcing its Parkway plan, Hopkins Dean Katherine S. Newman Hopkins got excited about the possibility of moving its dance, writing and other creative programs from Homewood to Station North. Frank says the university will lease space this year. MICA officials say the MICA/JHU program could be located at the Parkway or at 10 E. North Ave., a vacant Art Deco-style building that nonprofit developer Jubilee Baltimore Inc. is rehabbing.
Jubilee President Charlie Duff says he’s in favor of anything that brings more people — especially creative young students to the area. Duff is one of many property owners who are rehabbing properties with the goal of bringing more daytime traffic to the main thoroughfare, North Avenue. 
But moving to Station North would not only help the neighborhood, it would help Hopkins, Frank says. 

“It helps market Hopkins programs in a way that’s distinct from other programs because here you are in the heart of this vibrant district with artists, walking distance of restaurants and ultimately a theater. All of the work that’s been done in Station North has created an opportunity for Hopkins to move a program there and create a small campus between Peabody [in Mount Vernon] and Homewood, which really then gives you an opportunity to fill in those dead spaces along Charles Street.”

All photographs by STEVE RUARK except Parkway Theatre and The Charles Theater.

Click photos to read captions.

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