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A Neighborhood Reborn

blank Katie Bell
Hopkins leaders and community dignitaries celebrate the opening of the Rangos life sciences building.

Residents from East Baltimore gathered with Hopkins leaders and a score of other dignitaries on April 11 to celebrate the opening of a new life sciences building—a seven-story emblem of the revitalization of this once-impoverished neighborhood just north of the medical campus.

Edward Miller, dean/CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, praised the $54 million, state-of-the-art research facility at 855 N. Wolfe St. that was named after Pittsburgh philanthropist John G. Rangos Sr. While Miller acknowledged the new building’s potential for fostering scientific and medical advances, he also emphasized another goal of its construction.

“This was not just about a building,” he pointed out. “This was about building a community.”

It was a theme echoed by the other 17 speakers. Along with Johns Hopkins University President Bill Brody and Rangos, who donated $10 million to construct labs in the new building, the group included Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Congressmen Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes, Mayor Sheila Dixon, Joseph Haskins Jr., president of The Harbor Bank of Maryland, and Jack Shannon, president and CEO of East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit leading and managing the community’s revitalization.

They saluted the hard work and dedication required by this 88-acre commitment to urban renewal, a $1.8 billion effort that will eventually include five life sciences buildings, 2,200 new homes and the first public elementary/middle school to be built in Baltimore in 30 years. And they envisioned a new East Side that will attract newcomers with as many as 6,000 jobs and reflect the ongoing collaboration between Johns Hopkins Institutions, East Baltimore neighborhoods, city and state governments, businesses and nonprofits—a relationship that Brody called “the mother of all partnerships.”

O’Malley recalled that, years ago, the prospect of revitalizing the neighborhood seemed like a long shot. “For a long time when we looked at these blocks, we were blinded by what we saw,” the governor said. “From our different perspectives, we all had reasons why we could not do this. Then we started to say, ‘We believe we can do this if.”

Through his gift, Rangos helped remedy one of those conditions—funding. The new facility will bear a plaque that embodies his vision: “A building to combine the strength of industry with basic medical science to improve human health.”

Rangos told the crowd that he hoped such research would lead to “breakthroughs that eliminate the tyranny of disease.”

The building’s largest tenant, Hopkins’ Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, has begun moving into the 278,000-square-foot structure. It will occupy almost 100,000 square feet on two floors, a space roughly equivalent to the Light Street Pavilion at Harborplace.

Other tenants are Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a national nonprofit medical research organization, and Cangen Biotechnologies and Biomarker Strategies, both Hopkins-born ventures. Cangen is developing noninvasive tests for early detection of cancer, while Biomarker Strategies is creating a solid tumor cell testing system to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

A branch of Harbor Bank will occupy street-level offices. Also, the development team, known as the Forest City–New East Baltimore Partnership, will lease space for an office to market the first phase of the new community, said Scott Levitan, senior vice president for a division of the real estate company Forest City Enterprises. Based in Cleveland, Forest City has joined with Presidential Partners, a consortium of local minority-owned firms, to develop the biotech park.


—Linell Smith

 

 

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