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SNF Agora Institute Proceeding with Building Plans at Johns Hopkins University

BALTIMORE, MD – Johns Hopkins University recently announced the suspension of most capital projects over $100,000, among other cuts and layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Agora Institute will proceed with the building of its “six-story headquarters on Wyman Park Drive, next to the former Baltimore Marine Hospital and just west of the main Homewood campus,” Baltimore Fishbowl (BF) reported.

The “one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary center started in 2017,” BF reported, adding that SNF committed $150 million to launch the effort with John Hopkins “to build and staff an academic forum dedicated to ‘strengthening democracy by improving civic engagement and civil discourse worldwide.’”

Elizabeth Smyth, Executive Director of the SNF Agora Institute, via email, told BF that “the SNF Agora project is proceeding as planned since it is largely supported by donor funds. The president’s message indicated that the hold on capital projects did not apply to projects that are largely supported by donor and/or sponsored funds.”

On April 21, Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels shared a message with the university community about the significant financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the university. Of the suspension of capital projects, President Daniels said: “The university has halted new capital projects over $100,000 through FY21, with the exception of capital projects that address critical safety or systems issues, meet an urgent strategic need, or are largely supported by donor and/or sponsored funds. All active studies, design activities, and construction projects are subject to review.”

According to the BF report, Johns Hopkins “hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy, and Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore to lead the design team, selected the Wyman Park site and worked with city planners and elected officials to obtain zoning changes needed for construction,” adding that “the university has not disclosed a budget for the Agora headquarters, but planners said the costs of design and construction are largely covered by the SNF gift.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, construction was scheduled to start as early as this fall, pending the approval of the designs, and the eventual opening of the headquarters in 2022, BF reported.

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