(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Johns Hopkins is set to open new space for startups in East Baltimore in the coming weeks.
City officials cut the ribbon at the entrance to the seven-story 1812 Ashland on Monday as construction was moving forward inside on the university’s third innovation hub, which is called FastForward 1812.
Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures, which runs efforts to commercialize inventions and create startups within the university community and is overseen by Senior Advisor to the President Christy Wyskiel, is scheduled to move into offices in the building in the coming weeks of December. About 23,000 square feet of office and lab space for startups is set to open following after the first of the year.
Furthering a focus on life sciences, the $65 million building is already home to JHU’s genomics lab, and has other lab and office space available. Perhaps the most widely recognizable tenant is Starbucks, which will be be located on the ground floor and host one of the coffee chain’s five job training efforts in the country. But Johns Hopkins Health System President Ronald Peterson said the incubator is the star.
“In this building, we have a celebrity tenant. Some of you may be thinking Starbucks, but I’m thinking the innovation hub,” said Peterson, who stepped down as Johns Hopkins Hospital president earlier this year. He said the space “will enable Hopkins to do what it does best: innovate. This type of innovation will result in commercialization, and commercialization means job creation.”
That hub joins two other FastForward locations, one of which is located at the nearby Rangos Building on Wolfe Street. The space is one part of the university’s plan to create an innovation ecosystem.
Given that some of the elected officials who spoke are in their final two weeks in office, Monday’s ceremony offered plenty of reminders that the innovation space is part of a wider effort in the Middle East neighborhood that has not always been a smooth road. Along with thanking outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, officials who spoke on Monday, like Congressman Elijah Cummings, reflected on the still-ongoing road to redevelop the 88-acre site of which 1812 Ashland is one part under the purview of East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI). The nonprofit was created in 2003 to oversee the Middle East development, which was called the nation’s largest urban redevelopment project, featuring support from Hopkins, then-Mayor Martin O’Malley and various foundations.
Along the way, there have been tensions between the community and the developers around a site where about 700 families were displaced. A host of issues led to delays, and leaders acknowledged these disputes on Monday.
Opening 1812 Ashland is just one milestone, but the sound of construction work at surrounding sites joined officials such as Rawlings-Blake, Cummings and Johns Hopkins President Ronald Daniels in expressing optimism.
Scott Levitan, of the developer Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership, said the day was about “delivering on the promises in East Baltimore.”
Del. Nathaniel McFadden expressed approval after hearing that high percentages of work on the building went to women- and minority-owned firms, as well as Baltimore city residents.
Officials pointed to the revitalized Henderson-Hopkins school and new Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene public health lab. Construction is now ongoing on a new Marriott hotel, about 50 town homes that were claimed in a recent lottery and various retail tenants. Next to 1812 Ashland, a five-acre Eager Park is envisioned as the centerpiece, and the name of the community.
“There have been decades of tensions in East Baltimore between the institution and the community,” said City Councilman Carl Stokes, who is set to leave the Council. “I can tell you that that tension, although it remains, has moved to a healthy tension, a tension where we have a shared vision and we’re working together to do what is strong for the institution and the community.”
Cummings laid out the work ahead and how a building like 1812 Ashland fits in. “I love Starbucks, but I also want our children to become the doctors and the scientists. I want them to become those who cure disease and bring new life to life,” he said.
It’s a good reminder that innovation spaces, while granted special status, have to be part of the communities in which they are located.-30-
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