Johns Hopkins University’s Plan for the Newseum

More change is coming to Pennsylvania Avenue. For decades the Federal City Council has been involved in improving our nation’s boulevard. FC2 helped get plans rolling for the Reagan building back in the 1980s, which now anchors the western side of Pennsylvania Ave. Now another entity—Johns Hopkins University—will anchor the other end after announcing its intent to acquire the Newseum building this past January.

This morning we hosted representatives from Hopkins to walk us through their plans for the building. Joining us were Mitch Bonanno, Chief Real Estate Officer at Johns Hopkins, and Marissa McKeever, Director of Community Affairs for Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Johns Hopkins is no stranger to the city. The university contributes roughly $400 million per year to the local economy and employs 3,000 people. It already owns three buildings on Massachusetts Ave near Dupont and leases a fourth. But the building setup isn’t ideal. The buildings themselves are aging. Hopkins programs should be consolidated in one building rather than many. There isn’t much room to grow and the event space is tight. So they began looking for a new home.

The stars had aligned, because the Newseum was looking for an interested buyer. The building, which was designed to be a museum, will require some serious repurposing. There needs to be more natural light coming in, more elevators and more interconnectivity between the floors. The atrium will be filled in a bit to create more class space.

There hasn’t been any big resistance to Hopkins moving in. A university would bring more unique visitors downtown. The site would be active for more hours during the day, with students coming in at 8 am and events and classes going later into the night. The thousands of Hopkins students could support more retail and commerce in the neighborhood. Plus the local community may be able to use the building from time to time, for example, as a convening space.

Hopkins will have to wait many years before they can move into their new home. Pennsylvania Ave is a highly regulated place where the Pennsylvania Development Corporation has final say, along with input from many other federal and DC agencies. Fortunately the site is already zoned for higher education and also for the higher density that Hopkins is seeking. One of the biggest sticking points right now is renegotiating previous Newseum building fees with the DC government.