Hopkins will convert Blackstone into hotel next year

By WILL EDMONDS | October 3, 2019

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COURTESY OF SARAH Y. KIM Students reacted to the University’s new plans to build a hotel where the Blackstone is currently located.

The University announced plans to build a hotel on the current site of the Blackstone apartments on Wednesday. The hotel will be called The Study at Johns Hopkins, and be operated by Study Hotels, a brand that runs luxury hotels on or near three other East Coast university campuses.

Located on the southeastern corner of N. Charles Street and East 33rd Street, the Blackstone apartment complex currently houses 99 apartments for upperclassmen and community members. The new 115-room hotel will include a restaurant and bar as well as a conference space. 

According to Chief Real Estate Officer Mitch Bonanno, construction on The Study is set to begin in the summer of 2020 after current residents’ leases expire this May and will be completed by the fall of 2021. 

A number of students expressed interest in the announcement, though their feelings differed as to whether the construction would be beneficial or harmful to the Hopkins community as a whole.

Sophomore Husain Hakim told The News-Letter that he saw both pros and cons in the decision to replace the Blackstone with a hotel.

“I feel conflicted. On one hand I think the hotel will be nice for visiting parents and guests for Hopkins-hosted conferences, but it would be unfortunate if Hopkins removed a major student housing option for profit,” Hakim said.

Senior Elaine Sausen said that she saw the removal of the Blackstone from the potential housing pool for limited-income students as a serious issue. 

“I am not sure if it’s a good idea to turn the Blackstone into a hotel just because I feel like the Blackstone is one of the relatively cheaper options for students who are moving off campus their junior or senior year, and by taking away that option, they would be forced into other, more expensive housing,” she said.

Bonanno stated that there would be a fairly limited population of students affected by the change. “Normally there would be about a 50 percent attrition rate, just naturally, of people not renewing, where they’re graduating or moving somewhere else, so we’re left with a little over 40 students that may have wanted to stay in their apartments for another year that will need to relocate,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we made the announcement early enough in the year to give them plenty of time to do so and for us to be able to offer assistance.”

Bonanno added that Hopkins will pay close attention to current Blackstone residents who may need help looking for other off-campus housing for next year. 

He said that the Off-Campus Housing Office will help them find nearby and similarly priced residences. 

The Blackstone is currently one of only three apartment buildings within two blocks of the Hopkins East Gate, the main entrance to the Homewood Campus.

Sophomore Max Muss wrote in an email to The News-Letter that he was happy about the prospect of having accommodations for visitors close to the Homewood campus. 

Muss remarked that his parents, as Shabbat-observant Jews, would be unable to drive to campus from a hotel beyond walking distance.

“I am certainly a fan of the new development as the area around campus is definitely lacking in hotels,” Muss wrote. “My parents aren’t coming on Parents’ Weekend because the only hotels within walking distance were charging upwards of $1,000 a night and the only available AirBnBs were in unsafe neighborhoods.”

On the other hand, junior Blackstone resident Robert Huang expressed his disappointment with the decision to shut down the apartment building. 

He wrote in an email to The News-Letter that he was advised to look at The Charles, The Allston and Campus Square apartment complexes as potential housing alternatives.

“I really dislike moving... and had simply been planning to renew. I am quite annoyed by this,“ Huang wrote. “I’m sure [the hotel] will be great, at least for reputation. Blackstone has apparently had a bad reputation with regards to function, and the hotel will at least remove the health hazards inherent to an old building.”

Junior Cristina Romany echoed Huang’s concerns.

She wished that she had received more information on the renovations sooner.

“I had planned on living there for the remainder of my time at Hopkins because I don’t like to move from place to place,” she said.

Bonanno explained that the hotel’s construction would have an overall net positive economic impact on the Charles Village community, bringing new customers to retailers.

“Everyone agrees that it will benefit retailers, some of which have struggled with primarily a student-based population supporting them,” he said. 

Bonanno believes that the new hotel will create numerous job opportunities for community members.

“Running a hotel is more labor intensive than running an apartment building, so there will be city job creation and also significant economic benefit of the construction jobs created for this project,” he said.

He noted that the idea for the hotel emerged from conversations with the Charles Village Business Association and the North Charles Village Planned Unit Development during the project to construct Charles Commons, which opened in 2006.

He said that the groups remained supportive.

“The community folks who we spoke to this morning did remember that and were not surprised that we were furthering that plan” he said. “This is a natural progression of the development that’s occurred in Charles Village to date.” 

He explained that students were not directly engaged in the process because doing so could have interfered with third-party negotiations.

“It is always a delicate decision of knowing who to engage when while doing it in the most collaborative process but ensuring that you don’t do something that ends up making a deal infeasible.” 

Senior Erin Jones, who currently lives in the Blackstone, criticized the University for limiting off-campus student housing options. 

“The Blackstone is a student housing building and in exchange for student benefits, they are...trying to profit off of this shift from student residency and toward a for-profit hotel,” Jones said. “It’s really just disgusting. At the end of the day, Hopkins is yet again prioritizing money over their own students.”

The Study’s developers, in partnership with the University’s Facilities and Real Estate team, will begin work to secure permits and approvals from the city this winter.

Sophomore Alanna Margulies, who had been interested in living at the Blackstone next year, said that she had mixed feelings about the news.

“I have no inherent problem with the hotel being built and replacing aging off campus housing,” Margulies said. “But I would like to be better informed about who the developers are, what the school is doing to address the housing shortage that may result from it and what the community impact will be.”

Rudy Malcom contributed reporting.

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