A preliminary design rendering of the Johns Hopkins Health System’s proposed research tower.
A preliminary design rendering of the Johns Hopkins Health System’s proposed research tower.

With little fanfare, the Johns Hopkins Health System has begun construction of a $400 million addition to its East Baltimore medical campus, the largest project to get underway there since the Sheikh Zayed Tower and Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center opened in 2012.

Whiting Turner is the construction manager for the project, whose most visible element is a research tower that will rise where the historic Brady Building stood for many years and was razed in 2019.

The project is called the CMSC North Tower Addition and Renovation. The site is on the north side of the 1700 block of East Monument Street, between North Broadway and Rutland Avenue.

Campus planners say they have two main goals for the project: To create lab space that will allow Hopkins to stay on the cutting edge of research, and to provide a new entrance on the north side of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

“This is an exciting but challenging project,” said Sally MacConnell, senior vice president in charge of facilities for the health system, during a presentation to Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel (UDAAP.) It “allows us to have a major front door on Monument Street, which we have never had.”

Planning for the project was well underway in 2018 and 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced. But there was little construction activity on the site except for demolition of the Brady Building, a seven-story structure that was built in 1915 and named after a railroad tycoon and former patient who gave money for it, James “Diamond Jim” Brady.

This month, the city has closed portions of the sidewalk and a lane of traffic on Monument Street to enlarge the construction site, and a metal fence has been erected.

According to a presentation to UDAAP in November 2019, the work involves construction of a 12-story structure where the Brady Building stood and renovation of the Children’s Medical and Surgical Center (CMSC), a 1964 structure that has most recently housed labs and offices.

The combined project will have more than 440,000 square feet of new and renovated space, including 200,000 square feet of research labs and related areas. It also involves reskinning the south and west wings of the 1964 tower to be compatible with the new structure facing Monument Street. Ayers Saint Gross is the architect and Jacobs Consultancy is the lab designer.

When the building was going through the city’s design review process, planners said they hoped to complete construction by the spring of 2023. They have not provided an updated completion date or updated renderings.

Other major Hopkins construction projects currently underway include the $250 million Hopkins Student Center on the Homewood campus; a $100 million home for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute in the 3100 block of Wyman Park Drive, and new hub for Hopkins’ Washington, D. C., programs inside the former Newseum Building at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue N. W. there.

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.