Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 16, 2024

Tenants, forced from Dell House, react to University plan

By MAX McKENNA | October 22, 2007

Residents of the Dell House will have to vacate their apartments by Feb. 1, 2008 as Hopkins looks to relocate faculty members displaced by the two-year renovation of Gilman Hall, according to University officials.

Though the University decided last spring that offices would have to be moved to the Dell House, residents of the apartment building have yet to be officially informed.

"Residents will receive official notices either Thursday or Friday," said Dennis O'Shea, Hopkins' executive director of communications and public affairs. "The notification letters are being proof-read right now."

Residents of the Dell House are upset that they still have not been officially informed.

"My main issue is that I was totally unaware of this until I read last week's News-Letter article," said Damiano Sandri, a Dell House resident. Sandri, originally from Italy, is a graduate student in the Economics department and has lived in the Dell House since 2004.

Following last week's report in the News-Letter, Sandri called Johns Hopkins Real Estate to find out more about the situation.

"I called their office last Thursday," he said. "They told me they had heard of plans to move offices to the Dell House, but that they had nothing definite to tell us."

"I haven't received any notification," said Tricia Merkel, a junior public health major and resident of the Dell House.

"I'm upset Hopkins didn't make sure the residents were informed," Jemma Alarcon, a junior public health major, said. "Because many of us are students as well as residents, and because Hopkins owns the building, I expected the University would have gotten in touch with us sooner."

Alarcon also had heard nothing official until the publication of last week's News-Letter article.

"The manager of the Dell House had told me of the possibility," she said. "She said she would have more information this week."

O'Shea explained that Hopkins Real Estate, which obtains facilities to meet the space needs of the university, found out less than a month ago that Feb. 1 would be the official date.

"It takes time to prepare these notifications," he said. "It is not possible to turn this around on a dime. A lot of preparation is going into this to make sure it is done right."

The University first considered moving humanities offices to the Dell House in the spring. In May, in anticipation of this, the Dell House changed its leases from an annual renewal to a month-to-month renewal, O'Shea explained. This way, residents' leases can be terminated given a 60-day notification.

"Real Estate will be giving residents nearly three and a half months' notification," O'Shea said.

"My first year was month-to-month, the next two were yearly, so when it changed back to month-to-month leases this year, I didn't think too much about it," Sandri said.

"What bothers me is that we weren't told about this when signing our leases in May," Samuel Messing, a junior cognitive science and philosophy major, said.

O'Shea had no answer as to why Real Estate did not notify residents of the reason behind the change to month-to-month renewals.

Last week, special assistant to Dean Falk, Kitty Lauer, said residents of the Dell House had been notified in April of the move's possibility.

"I am disappointed the University said we were notified in the spring," Sandri said. "It never happened."

"It is likely Ms. Lauer is mistaken," O'Shea said. "She works in the school of Arts and Sciences, and it is Real Estate's responsibility to inform residents."

Lauer could not be immediately reached for comment.

"There has clearly been a miscommunication," Sandri said. "I don't like to think the University is pulling tricks on its students."

"This is an inconvenience," Alarcon said. "For students and non-students of the Dell House. Had I known I would be relocated in February, I would not have come to the Dell House in the first place."

Gilman renovations start the day after Commencement. Before renovations can begin, the offices will need to be moved out of the building.

"For the renovations to be done quickly, we need to move people out of Gilman right at the beginning of summer," Adam Falk, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said. "We need those three months between February and May to prepare the Dell House for the faculty."

"It would be irresponsible for the University not to take advantage of the summer to work on this project," O'Shea said.

Falk explained the move to the Dell House is necessary.

"It is important to understand we have to move the professors out of Gilman in order to renovate quickly and effectively," he said.

Falk explained that the Dell House best met Arts and Sciences criteria for alternative office space because it is relatively close to campus, and is large enough to allow departments to stay together. The Dell House can also properly accommodate graduate students' needs and seminar needs.

"There was no other place to put the faculty," he said. "The alternative would have been to have fields of trailers all over campus, which would have been costly and unsightly."

During the spring and summer, following the approval of the renovation plans, Falk, who made the final decision regarding the move, worked closely with faculty to come up with an effective solution to their need for office space. The Dell House was one of the first buildings considered.

"The faculty has known for a while that we would have to move to the Dell House," Paola Marrati, professor in the humanities and philosophy departments, said. "We've known since the plans to renovate Gilman were approved that we would have to leave."

"The responsibility for notifying the residents was entirely with Real Estate," Falk said.

Another factor in choosing the Dell House, O'Shea explained, was the building's relative lack of renters. Of the 41 units, students occupy twenty, non-students occupy 3, and 18 are vacant.

"Moving offices to the Homewood apartments, for example, would displace a greater number of students," he said. "Roughly half the units in Dell House are unoccupied."

Though most of the leases were changed to month-to-month renewals in the spring, seven year-long leases remain.

"Some leases just fell through the cracks," O'Shea said. He explained residents who signed year-long leases in May will be allowed to stay in the Dell House until their leases expire in spring of 2008, though the rest of the building will be in the process of renovation."

Real Estate will help students who have to leave by February 1 to find accommodations for the remainder of the year. In addition to paying for professional movers, Real Estate will be offering Dell House residents apartments in the Charles, Blackstone and Campus Square complexes.

"Real Estate is willing to work with Dell House residents to find a fair rent," O'Shea said.

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