Charles, Blackstone to be vacated by May 31

By Marie Cushing | March 22, 2007

Residents of two apartment buildings acquired last year by the University -- including non-students and families -- will have to move out for the summer so that renovations can be made, according to a notice from the University's real estate arm.

Johns Hopkins Real Estate notified tenants on March 13 that they would be required to leave by May 31, despite having known that repairs would be necessary for over a year.

"Any student who is in there who wishes to come back will have the lease to come back," said Dennis O'Shea, executive director of Communications and Public Affairs at Hopkins. As of May 31, students will occupy 51 of the Charles Apartments' 67 units and 47 of the 61 units in the Blackstone Apartments.

"There are very few non-students in there, but if they want to return they can do so."

According to the notification mailed out to residents, students whose leases expire after May 31 will have their leases terminated, but will be expected to enter a new lease on September 1. These students will not have to pay rent over the summer and will have accommodations available in Charles Commons. Seniors whose leases extend will have their lease terminated and will not have to pay for rent beyond this time. WP&M Real Estate Group will be responsible for helping non-students relocate. Those who do not vacate by May 31 can have their lease terminated under Section 9-14 of Baltimore's Public Local Laws.

The University purchased the two buildings and the land they stand on in February 2006, but WP&M Real Estate Group is responsible for management. According to O'Shea, the University was aware that the apartments would require renovations since they were purchased in February of last year, going so far as to include construction costs in the purchasing contract.

"It has been our intentions all along to get these renovations made. They couldn't be done last summer because there wasn't enough time between purchasing and summer, so we decided to do it this year," O'Shea said.

"I think that it could be rough for people who have to move out," said junior Joan Spirytus, a resident of the Charles Apartments.

"I was totally surprised. I thought it was really late notice. I imagine [the school] knew much earlier," she said. Since her room will only be affected by sprinkler installation, Spirytus will keep her apartment and will not have to move out her furniture.

"I just have to move out my belongings. I was actually looking for someone to sublet to and now I don't have to pay rent this summer. I'm lucky, but I'm sure the people who are losing their apartments are upset," she said.

"There hasn't been much of a reaction one way or another," O'Shea said, adding that his office has received only four phone calls commenting on the matter since residents were notified.

Construction will focus mostly on improving safety in the two buildings, specifically fire safety.

"Each building currently has only one closed stairway. The other fire egress is a slide. That's no longer adequate safety," said O'Shea. The fire slide will be removed, and a second enclosed stairway will be added.

Renovation will also include the installation of a sprinkler system and a smoke detector system that will be tied into an audiovisual alarm system. All gas stoves will be replaced with electric ones, and upgrades to the electrical system will be made. A new security system will include security card swipes and new a visual identification system.

"In [the] Blackstone [Apartments] they will be removing asbestos found behind the 500 in-wall radiators," O'Shea said, adding that radiators in the Charles are not embedded and therefore do not have asbestos issues.

Tenants have to leave during construction because of city regulations, but also because of the noise.

"They will be using jackhammers on concrete. No one wants to live there while that happens," O'Shea said.

The cost of construction will be covered in part by the allowance built into the contract. According to O'Shea, funds will also be available from the sale of garages that used to be located behind the Blackstone Apartments, and the University will pay the rest.

Carol Henson, the on-site manager at the leasing office in the Charles, deferred all comments to O'Shea.

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