As Baltimore public schools begin a new year, the Johns Hopkins University is poised to expand its academic reach from the college level to pre-K and elementary students in the East Baltimore community.
Taking over the East Baltimore Community School, which now meets in trailers on the playground of the former Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School, is the latest step by Hopkins in the massive redevelopment of Middle East — and one the developers hope will lead to demand for new housing there.
At the school, in the 1800 block of East Chase Street where 207 students were enrolled last year, the Hopkins imprint will be immediate.
“Our responsibilities include hiring and supervision of the principal, administration and faculty, the implementation of a proven, effective curriculum and planning and execution of a strategy for success,” Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels wrote in an Aug. 23 letter to university faculty, staff and students.
The move comes as East Baltimore Development Inc. officials have finalized plans to finance construction of a $40 million new home for the school, envisioned as the linchpin for the next phase of the $1.8 billion project.
Construction costs were originally expected to come entirely from private sources, but now EBDI officials say they are using $8 million in public financing through tax increment financing bonds to help get the project going, said Christopher Shea, CEO of East Baltimore Development Inc.
“The general East Baltimore area desperately needs more quality education programs and facilities,” Shea said of the need to move quickly to begin school construction. “It also, frankly, provides us with an organization and the community with a rallying point.”
The school building is designed as a state-of-the-art facility that will include a community center as well as an academic campus. It was planned as a unique partnership between the city schools and Johns Hopkins that could bring Hopkins Nobel laureates into the classrooms.
Work is expected to begin later this year with demolition of vacant homes at the 7-acre site, with completion scheduled for late 2013.
Hopkins’ new role in running the school, formerly operated by EBDI, includes a partnership with the Morgan State University School of Education and Urban Studies. The Johns Hopkins School of Education will operate the contract school.
“The school will take a holistic approach to developing the potential of each student, one that focuses on the behavioral, cognitive and physical health of the child, as well as emphasizing individualized learning, and family and community involvement supported by wrap-around services,” David Andrews, dean of the school of education, said in an email.
The school will be governed by a board, chaired by David G. Nichols, a member of the EBDI board and vice dean for medical education at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Cathleene J. Miles, who had been principal of the school since it opened two years ago, was removed this summer. A replacement is being sought through a national search by Hopkins, Daniels’ letter stated.
Assistant Principal Carol Deloatch will serve as the school’s interim principal.
The new operating arrangement was approved last month by the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners.
The board approved expanding the enrollment area of the fledgling school to include other East Baltimore communities and perhaps even a citywide lottery.
And the board approved a new curriculum for the school, Success for All. It replaces Expeditionary Learning, which was used for two years and was part of a $554,000 recommendation by Foundations Inc., a consultant hired by EBDI in 2008.
Success for All was created by Bob Slavin, director of the Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education.
The school is now the centerpiece of the redevelopment of 88 acres in the community known as Middle East near Johns Hopkins Hospital being developed by EBDI in partnership with the city, the state, Johns Hopkins, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership.
It is modeled after the Penn Alexander School in west Philadelphia, which opened in September 2001 in the midst of a huge redevelopment of a blighted urban area that surrounded the University of Pennsylvania. The university and the School District of Philadelphia formed a liaison to operate the Pre-K-8 school.
At the EBDI site, the school is expected to stimulate demand for residential housing by 2014, said Scott Levitan, senior vice president of Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership, the master developer.
More than 200 new units of rental and for-sale housing are planned, Levitan explained in a public meeting last week.
Now entering its second decade, the EBDI project was intended to become a world-class biotech park with five privately developed lab buildings and a residential community with 599 houses completed or under construction by now.
An investigation by The Daily Record this year found that after the expenditure of more than $564 million — including $212.6 million in public funds — the project is far behind schedule despite the relocation of more than 600 residents and the demolition of 669 houses and other buildings; another 700 vacant buildings are ready to come down.
Only one of the five planned life-sciences buildings has been constructed, and it is not completely leased. On one of the sites cleared for private development, the state is planning to build a $184.8 million lab for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that will be financed publicly.
Plans to build the 599 houses at the site by now have not materialized. Only 220 new units exist — most of them rental apartments for senior citizens.
But there have been recent signs of development, with Johns Hopkins constructing a 20-story, $60 million graduate student housing tower in the 900 block of North Wolfe Street that is expected to open in mid-2012 with 321 units.
A 10-story, $30 million parking garage is expected to break ground this summer near the graduate student tower, financed totally by Forest City, with the help of federal New Markets Tax Credits, Shea said.
Other plans call for construction of a 150-room hotel by 2013, Forest City officials have said.
Financing for the school was to be totally private, Shea and Hopkins officials said last year. But a lag in fundraising caused EBDI and Hopkins officials to include tax increment financing bonds for some of the site’s development.
EBDI had initially committed $25 million in TIF funds to clear the school site and relocate residents. Those funds were part of a larger TIF bond sale totaling $78 million and are to be repaid to investors over 30 years with city property taxes from development on the first 31 acres of the site.
Payments of principal and interest to bond investors will total $199 million by the last payout in 2039.
But in an interview this month, Shea said EBDI officials had restructured the financing plan to include TIF financing and the federal New Markets Tax Credits.
Instead of using TIF for the entire 57-acre site demolition, EBDI is committing $2.8 million for demolition of only 7 acres for the school, Shea said.
There is no timetable to demolish the buildings on the 50 acres surrounding the school site, Shea said.
The TIF funds will be used for construction of the school’s playing fields, gymnasium, auditorium and library — all facilities that will be shared with the community, Shea said.
“We have to be deliberate about structuring the financing,” Shea said. “Using new markets tax credits and TIF is not to fill a gap, it is a strategy to bring private investment into it.”
Federal New Markets Tax Credits are designed to spur private investment in low-income communities. The tax credits for this part of the project — totaling $13.7 million — were sold this month by Harbor Bank.
Joseph Haskins Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Harbor Bank, is the former chairman of the EBDI board.
Haskins told The Daily Record last week that the bank earned a fee for selling the tax credits to U.S. Bank for the school construction, but he declined to reveal the amount.
Harbor Bank also sold $25 million in New Markets Tax Credits to Forest City in 2006 for construction of the John G. Rangos Sr. Building and earned a fee, which Haskins did not disclose, for that transaction, he said.
At the time, Haskins was chairman of the EBDI board, but he said last week that he had not voted on the matter to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Treasury, which administers the New Markets Tax Credits, said there is no standard for the fees gained by selling the tax credits.