FastForward East to Quadruple in Size, Fuel Baltimore Tech Boom
The May 15 groundbreaking ceremony for Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ new FastForward East location at 1812 Ashland Ave. was about more than just the much-needed additional space the new location will provide the innovation hub.
The ceremony represented the robust growth of the Johns Hopkins innovation culture that is driving economic development in Baltimore, and it signified Baltimore’s strong prospects for becoming a home for tech-savvy companies, offering a wide range of new jobs to Baltimore residents and cultivating a booming, technology-based economy.
As Baltimore’s movers and shakers gathered that Friday morning—standing room only—under a fluttering white tent beneath a clear blue sky next to the 1812 Ashland Ave. construction site, there were no clouds—real or metaphorical—to dampen the speakers’ ardor.
“This new, larger space for our FastForward East innovation hub will help meet demand in the market for affordable space so that startups will start and stay here in Baltimore,” Christy Wyskiel, senior advisor to the president of The Johns Hopkins University, said during the ceremony.
Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake added that the mere existence of waiting lists for desk and laboratory space at Johns Hopkins’ FastForward innovation hubs signified growth in Baltimore.
The new and larger innovation hub’s job creation potential was evident throughout the ceremony, as the industrious hum of new construction work rang out from the construction site, indicative of jobs already created to construct the building.
“The cornerstone of a healthy community has got to be about jobs, and the building we’re celebrating today is tied inextricably to job creation,” said Ronald J. Daniels, president of The Johns Hopkins University, at the ceremony.
The future FastForward East innovation hub will be across the street from the current FastForward East, which occupies 6,000 square feet in the Rangos Building at 855 N. Wolfe St. FastForward East opened there in early 2015 to complement the original FastForward location near the university’s Homewood campus, but it didn’t take long before names started piling up on the waiting lists to which the mayor referred. FastForward space always has been at a premium.
The new seven-level, 165,000-square-foot, $65.6 million building is scheduled for completion by fall 2016. FastForward East will occupy 25,000 square feet and will offer open, communal spaces encouraging spontaneous collaboration and impromptu cross-pollination of ideas among FastForward innovators, to include both early- and later-stage companies.
But even 25,000 square feet ultimately may not be enough, if Baltimore continues along such a fast-paced technological trajectory.
As Jamar Whitehead, a fourth-grade student at Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School in East Baltimore, noted in his speech at the ceremony, “in a few years, [Johns Hopkins] may need another one of these buildings because my classmates and I have some ideas of our own.”
Other speakers at the ceremony included Ronald R. Peterson, president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a representative of East Baltimore in Maryland’s General Assembly; The Rev. LaReesa Smith-Horn, pastor for East Baltimore’s Christ United Methodist Church; Scott Levitan, development director for Forest City – New East Baltimore Partnership, the building’s developer; and Raymond Skinner, president and CEO of East Baltimore Development Inc., an organization revitalizing the neighborhood.