Newseum redevelopment pursued by Johns Hopkins University promises more natural light

By Andrew Giambrone posted July 9th, 2019 on dc.curbed.com

The university has filed early designs for the project with federal officials

The Newseum at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
 Shutterstock

The iconic Newseum building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW would retain its current massing but let in more sunlight under a preliminary proposal to convert the site into space for Johns Hopkins University, according to recently detailed plans for the project. The university is set to buy the property from its current owner, the Freedom Forum, for $372.5 million, and, on July 3, sent initial designs to the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) for informal feedback.

In a release, Johns Hopkins says it expects an official review of the project to take place later this year, with construction anticipated to begin as soon as fall 2020 and last until mid-2023. The new space will include over 400,000 square feet for educational uses, plus public events. Johns Hopkins already maintains real estate in the city, but will consolidate it at this project.

The university is teaming up with Ennead Architects and SmithGroup on the redevelopment. Once known as James Polshek and Associates, the former firm was the original architect for the Newseum building and has worked on the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York and Bill Clinton’s Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. SmithGroup has worked on various Smithsonian museums. (Clark Construction is providing pre-construction services.)

“Access to daylight will be increased throughout the building and the entry level will be made more visible and open to the street, creating a fluid and inviting interface with the public,” says the university’s release. “However, the massing extents of the original building design, based on regulating boundary lines respectful of the historic Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, will remain in place.” In a statement, Amy Mercurio of Johns Hopkins said the “floor slabs, internal circulation, and façade” would all be significantly reconfigured through the project.

The building is located at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The Newseum’s First Amendment display and the newspaper front pages on the avenue will be removed, but no changes to the Newseum Residences building—which has 135 units—were featured in the recent CFA filing. The Newseum is anticipated to relocate after 2019 but a location has not yet been disclosed.

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