Ronald J. Daniels said his success as president of Johns Hopkins University will depend on the success of East Baltimore Development Inc., the $1.8 billion, 88-acre community revitalization project near Hopkins East Baltimore medical campus.
“If EBDI fails, then my presidency at Hopkins fails,” he told the board of the Baltimore Development Corp. yesterday.
Fortunately for his presidency, Daniels thinks EBDI will be successful. “I think this past year was a banner year to stand back and see cranes and activity happening” north of the campus.
He singled out the building of an elementary and middle school out of the current rubble of demolition near Ashland and Chester streets as a talisman of the area’s rejuvenation.
“It’s the first new school in East Baltimore in more than three decades,” he said. “The design is fabulous. It will be shovel-ready this spring and open in September 2013.”
The new school and surrounding new development, he said, will end the “pernicious” perception of Hopkins as being walled off from a majority black and poor neighborhood.
“It’s not gentrification; it’s a mixed-income community,” Daniels said, adding that in 10 years he wants to see the EBDI neighborhood “cheek-by-jowl with members of the Hopkins community.”
His upbeat message is at odds with a number of local residents, some displaced by the widespread demolition, who say their interests have not been represented by EBDI, a partnership of the city, state, Forest City Enterprises, Casey Foundation, Abell Foundation, Johns Hopkins and others.
Daniels referred to the history of town-gown tension by saying, “There were occasions when we didn’t communicate well to one another. There were times we didn’t do the right things. There were times the community was too tough.”
Increasing Its Presence in North Baltimore
Noting that Hopkins is the biggest private employer in Baltimore, with $3.9 billion in economic output and 49,000 people on staff, Daniels said the institution has a “moral obligation” to the city as well as economic self-interest.
“What are our responsibilities, what are our possibilities” in collaborating with the city to create a more dynamic future, he asked before outlining some of his initiatives.
They include playing a more active role in the neighborhoods surrounding its North Baltimore Homewood campus. While some of the communities are affluent, others, like Remington south of the campus, are “challenged,” Daniels said
He said he has assigned his special advisor, Andrew B. Frank, to head the Homewood initiative. Prior to taking his position at Hopkins, Frank was Deputy Mayor for Economic Development under former Mayor Sheila Dixon.
Frank is also playing a key role in a controversial plan to privately manage the revitalization of Mount Vernon Place, which faces the Hopkins-owned Peabody Institute.
Daniels said he was exploring how Hopkins could unleash its buying power to encourage its suppliers to set up manufacturing in the city and hire local residents.
Citing Hopkins’ world-renown as a life sciences research center, he said he wanted to improve its technology transfer so that basic research could yield practical devices and products that “bring jobs into the city.”
Daniels said he personally devotes one day a week to community affairs, chiefly monitoring the EBDI project. A former law professor and dean, Daniels was named Hopkins’ 14th president in 2009.