Hopkins takes on neighborhood building in its own ‘hood

University pledges $10 million over 5 years to help revive neighborhoods near its North Baltimore campus.

hcpi hopkins daniels srb

Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as he announces community initiative.

Photo by: Fern Shen

The boarded-up rowhouses and empty lots on East 20th Street would appear to have little in common with the Georgian architecture and lush green quads of Johns Hopkins University, but university officials yesterday pledged to help revive this neighborhood and nine others.

Citing their responsibility to act as one of the city’s “anchor institutions,” University President Ronald J. Daniels and other officials vowed to spend $10 million over the next five years to improve communities near the North Baltimore campus at Charles and 33rd streets.

The announcement of “The Hopkins Community Partnership Initiative” is not a surprise – the program has been in the works for more than a year – but the dollar figure pledged by Hopkins was new.

It comes after many meetings the university organized with representatives of a 200-block swath of the city, including areas suffering from longstanding poverty and population loss, and others, closer to the Homewood campus, that possess a solid housing stock and stable families.

The 400 block of East 20th Street in the Barclay neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The 400 block of East 20th Street in the Barclay neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

“Safe streets, the elimination of blighted properties, development of the local workforce” are interests shared both by the communities and Hopkins, Daniels said. “After all, the future of Johns Hopkins is inextricably tied to that of its community.”

The initiative is much different in scale and scope from the University’s biotech park project near Johns Hopkins Hospital, undertaken by East Baltimore Community Development Inc. That $1.8 billion redevelopment involved clearing large swaths of rowhouses and has provoked continuing controversy over race, city subsidies and neighborhood displacement.

“The process here was great and really different from EBDI,” said Charles Duff, president of the non-profit development group Jubilee Baltimore Inc.

“Hopkins is helping all these neighborhoods get what they want,” said Duff, whose personal hope is that some of the Hopkins funding finds its way to Station North, where his group is hoping to redevelop the former theater building at 10 E. North Ave.

The communities involved consist of those immediately surrounding the Homewood campus – Charles Village, Oakenshawe, Wyman Park and Remington – as well as districts as far afield as Barclay, North Avenue/Greenmount West, Harwood and the Waverly Main Street Business District on Greenmount Avenue.

The money pledged by Hopkins would amount to $10,000-a-year for each square block covered by the initiative.

Few Details Yesterday

At a news conference on the Homewood campus, university officials were pressed for details on how they would apply the $10 million to tackle their ambitious goals of crime reduction, better quality of life, improved public education, job opportunity for local residents, and residential and commercial development.

Map of the roughly 200 square blocks that Hopkins seeks to revive through a university-community partnership. (JHU Office of the President)

Map of the roughly 200 square blocks Hopkins seeks to rejuvenate. (JHU Office of the President)

One way to leverage investment in local renewal might be “a gap development fund” to subsidize projects, said Andrew B. Frank, Daniels’ adviser on economic development issues and the city’s former deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development.

The fund could provide “lower cost financing, provided on a ‘but for’ basis,” Frank said, “meaning when we would determine that, without it, [the project] wouldn’t happen.”

(Frank’s “but for” phrasing echoes the formula used by the Baltimore Development Corp. – where he worked as deputy director – in applying PILOT and other tax breaks for commercial developments downtown.)

Other approaches might be grants to assist with community or school projects, or with city initiatives like the mayor’s Power in Dirt program or expanding Hopkins’ Live Near Your Work program, he said.

An Internal Working Group

Asked who would be deciding which neighborhood group or project would receive the funding, Daniels said it would be “an internal working group within Hopkins,” working in conjunction with the community partners.

Daniels said the involvement of the partners would ensure the transparency of the group’s decision-making process, pledging that it would be “a counterpoint to [instances] where these kinds of initiatives go off the rails.”

“We hope to attract $50 million of additional investment,” Daniels said, speaking to a crowd that included many of the neighborhood partners hoping to share in the University’s largess.

McNeely Report

The initiative is the brainchild of Joseph P. McNeely, executive director of the Central Baltimore Partnership, who was hired by Hopkins last year to formulate a plan for reviving an area with 22,000 full-time residents, described as 46.2% white and 33.4% African American.

McNeely wrote that the district “is blessed with a wide variety of strong organizations with capable leadership” that have “a long history and considerable success in addressing the same needs identified in the JHU HCPI [Homewood Community Partners Initiative].”

But, noting that these groups have so far been unable to turn around the neighborhoods into a “vibrant urban center,” he advanced a plan promising to increase population by building “new, high-density, mixed-use development where appropriate and desired,” creating “exciting and accessible retail,” promoting “arts and entertainment venues,” and improve amenities to foster “beautiful surroundings, open space, clean public spaces and calm traffic.”

“Dramatically increasing the population of the area – emphasizing market-rate housing and recruiting more affluent residents – is the most critical change and would be the catalyst that drives more and better retail, higher school quality, improved quality of life, reduced crime, and a sustainable attractive environment,” McNeely wrote.

A stretch of Howard Street in Remington with still-blooming roses and fresh paint. (Photo by Fern Shen)

A stretch of Howard Street in Remington yesterday with still-blooming roses and fresh paint. (Photo by Fern Shen)

“Very Excited”

Greater Remington Improvement Association President Judith Kunst yesterday said she was “very excited about what this could mean for Remington.”

Kunst said she hopes Hopkins would recognize and build on recent improvements in her neighborhood – particularly the renovation on Remington Avenue by Seawall Development of a long-vacant block of rowhouses and, on Howard Street, of a tire shop being converted for use by Single Carrot Theatre and other businesses.

“Remington has been like a stepchild but it seems like we’re blossoming,” she said.

Dale Hargrave, president of the New Greenmount West Community Association, said the money is important. “But more important is the reinvigoration of our partnership with Hopkins and the rebuilding of our city.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake praised Hopkins at the press conference and said the partnership would help with her goal of increasing the city’s population by attracting 10,000 families in 10 years.

“With the leadership of President Daniels, even more [will] live here,” the mayor said. The Hopkins plan has its own population growth goal: an additional 3,000 families in 10 years.

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  • glsever

    I’m surprised Wyman Park is included.  That neighborhood is nothing like the other’s in terms of disinvestment, with rowhomes selling for close to $300K.

    • McGilloway

      The point of Wyman Park is a valid one as it relates to investment. I served as the representative from Wyman Park in this process and while there is not a need for significant levels of investment, we appreciate the invitation from JHU particularly as it relates to mutual efforts/interests in Wyman Park and the Stony Run stream valley and our shared border with JHU.  We see our participation as a partnership to work with JHU and Friends of Stony Run among others to help improve this resource for the City. Generally, and rightfully so, there was very little focus on the Wyman Park neighborhood in this effort. 

  • cwals99

    Johns Hopkins has over the decades received trillions of dollars in taxpayer money used to allow it to expand from the city, throughout the state, across the nation, and now globally.  Mikulski had a supernova named for her because of her efforts in bringing the money to Hopkins.  How did the citizens of Baltimore fair these same decades?

    The point is this:  Hopkins is no longer a private non-profit, it is a corporation and as such should have long been paying taxes to the city’s general fund.  It is starting to patent its research and follow MIT and Stanford in openly running corporate R and D on campus.  It is a business.

    So, when a business that is not paying taxes tells the city that it will donate money to projects for its own benefit… have Bahrain or Nigeria, you don’t have America.  We must have a system that allows historically non-profit institutions to segue into the profit realm while taking into consideration that trillions in public money built the institution.

    We are seeing this happen with the private space company that is now for profit as it uses all of NASA space technology.  Yet, somehow public sector NASA is struggling with funding.  We see it in Biotech companies who are now directly tied to NIH that use all of the research developed by taxpayers then go on to making profits.  What we are seeing is the same thing that happened in Russia with Perestroika where Gorbachev and Yeltsin gave all of the communist public assets…..which for the Russian people was everything… a few connected families.

    Corporate politicians like we have in Maryland will not protect public assets and interests.  They will allow this quasi-public transfer to happen openly.  If people do not shout out and demand an end to this public-private partnership policy….we will be simple peasants in a fiefdom paying our taxes to corporate entities and hoping they will patronize us……

    This is called medieval Europe!!!!!

  • Gerald Neily

    This is taking WD Schaefer’s “Shadow Government” to the next level, adding further layers of government when the current levels don’t work. The special tax “Benefits Districts” were a previous level. Then various non-profit organizations and institutions each added their own take. MICA adopted Station North. The city government did not like the way the state MTA ran the bus system so they started the Charm City Circulator. Each new level is exempt from the otherwise imposed taxes and constraints, leaving it free to engage in various “but for” deals.

  • cwals99

    I would also like to say that there are laws regarding development that takes into consideration demographics like race, class, and ethnicity.  We see time and again that Hopkins is able to totally ignore these laws and write in quotas….which in and of themselves are never meant.  These areas being developed are all poor and working class and will displace minorities and white families just as happened in the EBDI development.

    One has to wonder how the city council members and the Mayor can stay in office with most of their constituents being written out of the future of these communities.  Oh, wait, we just talked of captured elections.  We simply need legal actions!

  • bmorepanic

    10 million dollars/10 years/200 blocks

    Thinking about $5k per block per year and comparing it to the photo of east 20th Street above, I can’t help wondering what can be accomplished.  Demolish one house per year?  Pay for one day of street cleaning every 3rd week?  Work with another non-profit and fix up 3-4 roofs per year?

    I would expect that the Hopies will actually spend the money doing whatever benefits their campus the most – build a few low rises, do some landscaping.  Or perhaps they plan on wide displacement of the poorer residents and spend their bucks on acquisition.

    I strongly agree with Mr. Neily.  Why can’t government work for us?  

    I somewhat agree with cwals99. Why do we give so much to Hopkins and then are expected to be grateful for a very tiny bit of return of our money?  Didn’t they already get 10 million dollars worth of publicity.

    I am cynical enough to have some concern of government returning to a version of feudal states.  

  • faU1

    The gist of the McNeely report is this: Johns Hopkins is more than ever a corporate university, pressed to compete with institutions situated in less diverse and economically depressed settings. To attract rich students and academic all-stars who feel squeamish when forced to encounter the economic realities of this city, it wants to remake its environs in its own Disneyland image. Although there’s a weak promise to preserve low-income housing, the gentrification initiative which has been proposed involves pushing out renters and renovating not just properties but whole neighborhoods to attract (white) “upper-middle-class homebuyers” in from the county. This, of course, with the ultimate effect of raising property values (ka-ching for Hopkins, big real estate holder) and continuing to push poor and minority populations out of the school’s sightlines. Meanwhile, the proposed effort to “counter [the] perception and any reality of the fortress mentality” at Hopkins simply involves extending the fortress — amping up an already outrageously disproportionate police and security presence in preferred areas all the way to Penn Station.

    McNeely’s “call to action” barely masks its cynical manipulation of the area for commercial ends. Just one example: Now that artists have apparently raised the image of Station North, flocking their for convenient and ample studio space, McNeely suggests its time to go high-density in that area and “expand the beachhead beyond the bohemian image to attract a broader clientele.” 

    One could lose one’s voice ranting about what should seem entirely unsurprising to everyone who lived through the recent travesties of EBDI and the administrative strong-arming that is still trying to streamline and retool the Hopkins the education factory. So just one more thing. Hopkins: What happened to the promise (10 years ago) that all employees will receive at least a living wage? Should we permit these headlong attempts to burnish a sleek but deluded image of the “Hopkins community” while workers at Hopkins are still not guaranteed the minimal wage that even Baltimore city employees can expect?

  • Day_Star

    The people in the neighborhoods very much support Johns Hopkins investment.  They’d like cleaner, prettier communities with less vacant homes where their home investment stops falling in value.  Stepping-in where the City can’t and improving their back yard.  Win-win.  It’s really that simple. 

    Conspiracies, breaking things down to race, “global corporations are bad therefore anything Hopkins does must be bad”, blah blah blah blah.  People who complain about community investment just don’t get it — there’s no romanticism in raising your kids in the hood.  The only thing that can turn Baltimore and its neighborhoods around is private & institutional investment and people giving a damn.  They go hand-in-hand. The great communist wealth redistribution ‘aint going to happen.  Let’s come back to reality.  Johns Hopkins making a $10 million investment is a pretty damn good thing.      

    • Gerald Neily

      Actually, Day Star, tax-exempt Hopkins’ $10M “investment” is a direct result of that great “wealth redistribution”. They’ve got the cash amd they’re tax exempt so they’re going to use it. As the traditional investment channels feel squeezed by the fiscal cliff (which the city fell off years ago), or what have you, there’s a void and Hopkins is filling it. Regardless of anyone’s judgment, most private capital prefers to be elsewhere such as the suburbs or China or the sidelines or wherever.

    • Ed

      Exactly. What’s odd about this criticism is that Hopkins is probably the largest employer of Black people in the city after the city government.

  • BmoreFree

    Just goes to show that self interest works as the best motivator to get things done. People can talk about altruistic motives until their blue in the face but at the end of the day (most) people are motivated by their own self interest and there is nothing wrong with this. This investment is creating a win-win for the neighborhoods around the campus and JHU. As long as there are lines open for community input into the process I don’t see the harm.

    JHU Homewood realized it was loosing good students because the neighborhoods surrounding the campus (rightly or wrongly) were seen as unsafe. I applaud this development and hope there is more in the works from UM – Baltimore, UB and MICA among others.   

    Regarding comments about the non-profit status of these universities I would invite them to travel to NYC, Silicon Valley, and Boston to see just how the concept of public investment into R&D translates in to good paying jobs and economic development. If people want to see Baltimore get better Baltimore needs a bigger tax base (and lower taxes, but I digress) of well paid professionals that can pay the taxes needed to support this great city’s redevelopment. If people with jobs and kids don’t want to live in the city then it is game over, hello Detroit.

  • Professor Q

    Here’s a novel concept. Clean up Greenmount avenue and the rest of the area will follow and it won’t take 10million to do that. Why is it that the cops have to be in that area 24-7?  Greenmount from, hell from just about Cold Spring to practically downtown is an f’n cesspool of filth, drugs, prostitutes and low lifes. And if you don’t think so then you’re a fool. As long as Greenmount stays the way it is then that area won’t change. And no amount of farmers market will change that one bit.  Shootings, muggings, break-ins, etc etc. Tell you one thing, even if I could afford to send my kid to Johns-Hopkins, I wouldn’t b/c I’d be worried about them the whole time.  Good luck JH with “cleaning” up the neighborhood, it’s not going to change in your lifetime or mine. I’d be better off burning down my house and collecting the insurance!!! And the mayor, city council are the ones to blame. Lame and useless.

    • BmoreFree

      Wow Professor Q,

      Way to come up with some great solutions to endemic problems of this city and really contribute to the discussion on the Brew. It is attitudes such as yours which will lead to suburban decay over the next fifty years. Cities are undergoing a renaissance (and yes, Baltimore may be late to the party) due to the way the knowledge economy works and the lifestyle preferences of the younger “Millennial” generation. 

      Why exactly do you think Greenmount became a “cesspool of filth, drugs, prostitutes and low lifes [sic]”?  Might you consider for one second that people earn a living any way they can when faced with bills to pay and children to care for?  The world changed very quickly (and is continuing to change even quicker) and some people have been left behind.  It is the rarest of individuals who choose a life of drugs and/or prostitution.  Perhaps a little more empathy and a little less apathy would go a long way towards curing what ails Baltimore?

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