January 4, 2010

Johns Hopkins to buy former Zurich Insurance property

Johns Hopkins has entered into a contract to acquire the former Zurich Insurance Co. property in north Baltimore and will use it to consolidate financial, data processing and administrative functions currently spread out in a number of area locations.

The property will be acquired by a subsidiary jointly owned by The Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System.

The 415,000 square feet of usable space in two buildings on the site—with large, open floors and two data centers—make it ideal for housing financial services and information technology operations, said James T. McGill, the university’s senior vice president for finance and administration.

The property, which includes 1,500 parking spaces, a cafeteria and meeting and classroom space, is at 40th Street and Keswick Road, less than a half-mile from the university’s Homewood campus.

“The property’s location, layout, infrastructure and amenities made it a very attractive facility for both Johns Hopkins institutions,” McGill said.

Ronald Werthman, vice president for finance of the Johns Hopkins Health System, said, “The more we looked at both our future needs and what we’re paying now to operate in leased and owned space throughout the metro area, the clearer it became that buying this property made good economic sense for both entities.”

The units that will move to the site have not all been identified. The buildings will be filled with Johns Hopkins tenants over time, as leases elsewhere expire and as other business considerations dictate.

The university and health system, though they are separate corporations, have combined seven large back-office operations such as purchasing and accounts payable and receivable into what they call “shared services centers” that serve both entities. Some of those centers, which work together on a daily basis, are prime candidates for relocation to the Zurich property. So are other still-separate university and health system offices that often collaborate.

Johns Hopkins information technology functions are run by an organization called IT@Johns Hopkins that also crosses the lines between the two corporations. Some IT@Johns Hopkins groups, particularly those supporting business functions, are candidates for the Zurich property, though Johns Hopkins will continue to operate data centers elsewhere.

The sale is scheduled to close March 31.