In 1989, Elizabeth Banks sold Belward Farm for the gift price of $5 million (one-tenth of its estimated value) to Johns Hopkins University for a minimally-intrusive academic, medical or research campus. The family understood that it would be a Johns Hopkins-occupied campus. That was Ms. Banks' intention for her farm.
In 1997, Ms. Banks, her family and Johns Hopkins crafted a plan that would fulfill her wishes for the Belward Farm Campus of Johns Hopkins University. The 1997 Plan allowed for 1.8 million square feet of development for the entire 138-acre property. A 1997 Planning Board document stated that level of density would handle a “capacity for 8,650 jobs”.
Elizabeth Banks passed away in 2005, and soon thereafter, Johns Hopkins scrapped the 1997 plan and wrote an entirely new plan for the remaining 107-acre farm. Hopkins’ current plan proposes a 4.7 million square foot high-rise commercial office complex with, extrapolating from the earlier document, a capacity for almost 22,600 jobs on Belward Farm.
According to the deed, Johns Hopkins cannot sell Belward Farm for 50 years, but Hopkins is offering 99-year ground leases for the property. The University has not committed to occupy any of the future buildings. It is purely a profit-making business venture for Johns Hopkins and is totally inconsistent with the wishes of Elizabeth Banks.
The 1997 plan proposed two- and three-level buildings. The current plan allows for buildings up to 150-feet high or fourteen-stories tall.
The environmental easement surrounding the historic farmstead was increased from seven acres in the 1997 plan to 10 acres in the current plan. The 1997 plan proposed two-story buildings immediately adjacent to the farmstead. The height will increase to five-story buildings, with up to fourteen-story buildings immediately behind the farmstead in the current plan.
The buffers between the proposed commercial complex on Belward Farm and the three adjacent neighborhoods were a point of contention throughout the master plan process. In the 1997 plan, Hopkins spread the buildings across the farm with vast surface parking lots. They said the density did not allow for structured parking garages, which is absurd because Danac (across the road from Belward) has structured parking for their complex which is a fraction of the size.
At this point, the buffers are slightly wider because of the large parking lots shown in the earlier plan. But Hopkins has made it clear that the roads and buildings on their Preliminary Plan are “illustrative”. Apparently they can change much of what they have shown on the plan documents.
For example, the width of the buffer between Belward Farm and Washingtonian Woods, which is across Muddy Branch Road, changed from 300 feet to 200 feet to “at least 100 feet” during the master plan discussions.
Beyond the remaining approved capacity of 1.4 million square feet, future development is premised on the construction of the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT).
If approved, the CCT will operate the length of Belward Farm on a 150 foot right-of-way. The CCT is only expected to carry 12 percent to 15 percent of the Science City’s additional workers and residents which will leave 85 percent (or tens of thousands) of additional cars on the roads. This will necessitate monumental changes in the roads around the farm…wider roads with multi-level twelve- to sixteen-lane highway interchanges.
We expected development on Belward Farm but we did not anticipate that Johns Hopkins would violate the intentions of Elizabeth Banks and propose a massive high-rise commercial complex.