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Newseum building to be sold to Johns Hopkins University in $372M deal

The school will consolidate its D.C. real estate at the Pennsylvania Avenue site and the museum will move

The Newseum, at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
ImagineerInc/Shutterstock

Johns Hopkins University, which is based in Baltimore but has real estate in D.C., plans to buy the Newseum site at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW from the foundation behind the First Amendment-focused museum—the Freedom Forum—for a whopping $372.5 million. The university announced the deal on Friday, after its trustees approved the deal on Thursday.

Johns Hopkins says it will consolidate its District real estate, located along Massachusetts Avenue NW, into more than 400,000 square feet of space at the Newseum building, which it will renovate. The renovation work is scheduled to begin in fall 2020, the Washington Post reports, but the project will have to undergo local and federal reviews. The university says it will sell its current D.C. properties and use “funds and philanthropic support” to support the deal. As of now, there are more than 3,300 Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, and students in D.C.

In a statement, the university called the Newseum building “an iconic property in the heart of the nation’s capital” and said the acquisition would situate its “research and expertise in the midst of national and global decision-making.” It will maintain the Newseum building’s uses for “education, discovery, [and] free and open debate” and host public events at the site, too. The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies is already based in the District.

The Newseum, which has faced serious financial difficulties in recent years and conducted a 16-month strategic review starting in 2017, will stay open to the public through 2019, said the Freedom Forum in a release. The organization said “the review made clear that a sale of the facility was [its] best path forward,” and that it has “committed more than $600 million to build and fund the museum,” which opened in 2008. Now, the foundation will search for a new space in the D.C. area to house the museum, according to the Freedom Forum’s CEO.

“This was a difficult decision, but it was the responsible one,” said Jan Neuharth, the CEO. “We remain committed to continuing our programs—in a financially sustainable way—to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment and to increase public awareness about the importance of a free and fair press.” USA Today’s founder established the forum in 1991.

The Newseum site includes 135 units at the Newseum Residences. The Washington Business Journal reports that the details in relation to that part of the deal still need to be worked out.