Hopkins closes on former Newseum building in D.C. to use for research, education, public events

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Photo by David Monack via Wikimedia Commons.

Johns Hopkins University on Monday closed on the former Newseum building in Washington D.C. after more than a year of working to gain the necessary approvals and community input for the project.

The Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, closed to the public at the end of 2019 after financial difficulties.

The university said it plans to renovate the building, located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, and use it for research, education and public engagement.

The acquisition will allow the university to house its D.C.-based graduate programs and research and educational activities within “a single, landmark building,” officials said in a news release.

Washington D.C. is home to the university’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and graduate programs in business, arts and sciences, and nursing.

The building will offer “exciting opportunities” for Hopkins’ academic programs in both Baltimore and Washington D.C., said Mitch Bonanno, chief real estate officer for Johns Hopkins University.

“This remarkable facility will become a vibrant hub for research, education, and convenings, representing a rare alignment of our mission of sharing knowledge with the world, and the ongoing growth of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor,
Bonanno said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the welcoming approach of community and business organizations, District officials, and the numerous local and federal regulatory agencies who supported required approvals.”

The university announced in January 2019 that it was buying the Newseum building.

Former spokesman Dennis O’Shea told Baltimore Fishbowl at the time that the university would not be moving any of its programs from Baltimore to Washington D.C.

“This new location will neither distract nor detract from our commitment to our hometown of Baltimore,” O’Shea said at the time. “It will help create new opportunities to promote the city we are proud to be a part of and the work our students and faculty do here every day.”

The university plans to make several renovations to the building, such as changing the building’s façade to increase natural daylight, reconfiguring the floor plan to increase square footag,; and implementing more sustainable building systems.

John Falcicchio, chief of staff for Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and acting deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said the city is looking forward to the former Newseum building being “reinvigorated” by Hopkins.

“We have been engaged in discussions with the university for more than a year to ensure 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW is a beacon of thought leadership that engages and supports the neighborhood and the city in which it sits,” Falcicchio said in a statement. “Johns Hopkins has been an enthusiastic partner, with significant commitments to local hiring, local businesses and educational access.”

Ennead Architects, the building’s original architect, will lead the building’s renovation and re-design in collaboration with interior design firm Rockwell Group.

The Washington D.C. office of the architectural, engineering and planning firm SmithGroup will serve as the Architect of Record.

Structural engineering firm LERA and building systems engineering firm WSP, both part of the building’s original design team, will also be part of the project.

Marcus Dieterle

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