2007 MFE Awards
Project of the Year: Student
Not too long ago, Johns Hopkins University had a major crisis on its hands. The prestigious university was actually losing some of its brightest stars because they couldn't find safe, quality housing. Enter Collegetown Development Alliance, a joint venture between Capstone Development Corp. and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse. The duo teamed with the university and architecture firm Design Collective to create a dynamic 615-bed, 300,000-square-foot mixed-use development spanning a full city block on the edge of the Baltimore campus.
From the start, the development team knew that to truly revitalize the aging neighborhood it needed to build more than housing for its target group of upperclassmen. The winning formula: A 25,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble (which also serves as the main campus bookstore), Starbucks, dining hall, conference facilities, library, and fitness center all help attract students and faculty, as well as the surrounding community. “The programming phase to decide what was going into the building was extended several months to make sure the team got it exactly right,” says Luis Bernardo, a principal and partner at Baltimore-based Design Collective.
That's one of many things the team got right. Charles Commons fits seamlessly into the neighborhood—not an easy feat for a project of its size. The building is broken into distinct masses—two 10- and 12-story towers linked with a sky bridge—that blend the traditional Georgian campus architecture with its more contemporary neighbors. Plus, a central courtyard optimizes views, natural light, and ventilation.
Students were top of mind during the design process. They have plenty of places to study and hang out, be it in their apartment-style units or the building's public spaces, which include a game room, arts and crafts center, computer and group study labs, community kitchen, and music practice rooms. Not surprisingly, Charles Commons was 97 percent leased before it even opened. The project is certain to be an impetus for continued neighborhood revitalization; a handful of new conventional multifamily projects and retail stores have already opened. “When you are the first large project to come online in a long time it takes awhile for other ones to follow in your footsteps, but that is clearly the way it is going to go,” Bernardo says.
- Developer: Collegetown Development Alliance
- Architect: Design Collective
- Opened: September 2006
- Units: 212 (615 beds)
- Unit Mix: One-, two-, and four-bedrooms
- Price: $877 per student
Judge's Verdict“THIS SUCCESSFUL BUILDING CONTRIBUTES TO A SENSE OF COMMUNITY. THE PROJECT CREATES LIVABILITY THROUGH SIMPLICITY OF STRUCTURE AND MATERIALS AND IS A PARTNER IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.”
— Daniel Ashtary, principal, Torti Gallas and Partners