The Lord Baltimore Hotel will house Morgan State University students for the fall semester. Screenshot via Google Maps.

Expecting another year of record enrollment, Morgan State University will again house several hundred students at the Lord Baltimore Hotel and other locations far from its northeast Baltimore campus.

Maryland’s Board of Public Works has approved a request from university officials to rent 180 rooms with 348 beds at the downtown hotel from August 12, 2023 to May 19, 2024. The rent is $4.3 million, and the nine-month lease period corresponds to Morgan State’s 2023-24 academic year.

This is the second consecutive year that Morgan has requested funds to house students at the Lord Baltimore Hotel due to high enrollment. Owned by Rubell Hotels, the 1928 landmark at 20 West Baltimore Street is several miles from Morgan’s campus at 1700 East Cold Spring Lane.

Last summer, Morgan obtained state approval to rent 275 apartments with 496 beds at the hotel for the Fall 2022 semester. Then it extended its agreement with the hotel to rent 248 beds for its Spring 2023 semester, according to statistics provided to the spending board. Before leasing rooms downtown, Morgan reserved rooms for students in the hotel at the Village of Cross Keys on Falls Road.

According to its website, Morgan officially enrolled 9,101 students in Fall 2022, a record for Maryland’s largest Historically Black College or University. The figure was 7.5 percent higher than Morgan’s previous record of 8,469 students enrolled at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

The university hasn’t released enrollment figures for the Fall 2023 semester since classes won’t start until August 21, but President David Wilson wrote on social media last month that he expects Morgan to set another record.

“Another packed house…for Access Orientation (Cohort 5) of the incoming fall class,” Wilson wrote in a July 24 Facebook post. “350-400 scholars have been in each of the previous cohorts – and we have two more cohorts to go! The Freshman class is representing 43 states and approximately 15 countries. Another record enrollment for The National Treasure!”

This week, Wilson posted about breaking a different sort of record that helps drive enrollment: “I’m pleased to report that Morgan has surpassed $100 million this past year in research grants, awards and gifts,” he said on LinkedIn. “This is historic for us…Breaking records with $83M plus in new research funding commitments alone, marking our second consecutive year of growth!”

In requesting funds to house students at the Lord Baltimore Hotel for a second year, the university cited its high enrollment.

“MSU expects to continue its historic enrollment for the fall 2023 semester, exceeding 9,000 for the second time in history,” stated university executive vice president David LaChina, in a memo to the board. “This record enrollment includes a continuation of the record number of first-year students admitted in 2021 and 2022 and the anticipated yield numbers for Fall 2023. MSU’s current housing capacity of 2,571 is inadequate to accommodate this surge in enrollment and the high level of interest among students residing in university-owned or affiliated housing.”

The university “currently has a record number of applications and strong evidence that complete housing applications will exceed the current supply of on-campus and off-campus available beds for Fall 2023,” LaChina continued. “Further, privatized housing facilities are expected to reach total capacity for the upcoming academic year.“

Morgan opened a 10-story, 670-bed residence hall last summer and construction is well underway on a building that’s expected to add 600 more beds by mid-2024, but that won’t help meet its needs this fall.

In its search for supplemental housing, the university sought proposals from seven hotels but “only two hotels expressed an interest,” according to LaChina. “One hotel was found non-responsive as they could not fulfill the requested number of rooms. The Lord Baltimore was the only responsive respondent to the Invitation to Bid.”

The Board of Public Works approved Morgan’s request to house students at the Lord Baltimore Hotel without any discussion. The board also approved requests to lease apartments at two other locations to help meet Morgan’s housing needs. They are:

First, 153 units at the Towson Town Place Apartments, 6920 Donachie Road in Towson. The lease term is Aug. 3, 2023 to July 31, 2026, with two one-year options to renew. The rent is $1.9 million in years one and two; $1.97 million in year three; and higher in the optional years. The spending board previously approved a lease for 201 apartments at the same location in June of 2022.

Second, at least 66 apartments at the Varsity Midtown Apartments, 30 West Biddle Street in Mount Vernon. In 2022, Morgan leased 37 apartments at that location for the period from Aug. 1, 2022 to July 31, 2025. This year the board granted a request to lease those 37 and another 29 apartments for the period from August 3, 2023 to July 31, 2029, with four one-year options to renew. Morgan also received authorization from the spending board to rent another 33 apartments starting in 2024, if necessary. The rental rate varies according to how many apartments are leased in a given year but it starts at $1.097 million for the year that began this month.

Also on Wednesday, the state board approved two additional funding requests from Morgan State. They are: A request to hire Whiting Turner Contracting Company and Mason Dixon Builders to modernize Baldwin Hall and Cummings House on campus for continued use as student housing, at a total contract amount of $25.6 million; and a request to lease 34,721 square feet of space in the Hoen Lithograph Building at 2101 East Biddle Street to accommodate “community-based research initiatives.” The lease period at the Hoen building is 84 months with one five-year option to extend the lease, and the starting base rent is $565,000 per year, with an escalator clause.

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

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1 Comment

  1. I’m excited for the record number of students enrolling at Morgan. However, President Wilson and his team must address the process for identifying students who live off campus…especially those living downtown at the Lord Baltimore…not a great solution for a freshman looking to enjoy their first year experience…using public transportation to travel to campus?? Really?? What about a shuttle?? Whoever made this decision obviously has not been a passenger on Baltimore’s MTA. Freshmen (especially those coming from out-of-state) should be given priority for on-campus housing…or simply tell the record number of applicants that they will not be offered housing well before they send their deposit. Again, this is nothing to celebrate. Do better Morgan; because you are the National Treasure.

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