Two plans submitted to revitalize Brokerage Cordish, Chicago firm offer retail proposals


March 10, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid and Lorraine Mirabella | Kevin L. McQuaid and Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Two developers have submitted retail-oriented proposals to revive Baltimore's sagging Brokerage complex, part of an overall plan to revitalize downtown's east side.

The two proposals -- from Baltimore-based Cordish Co. and a Chicago developer -- come as the city is preparing to go full throttle on the Port Discovery children's museum, which is slated to occupy the Fishmarket adjacent to the Brokerage.

Under the Cordish Co. plan, the city-owned project at 34 Market Place would become a retail, entertainment and arts pavilion that would create 600 new jobs.

The other proposal, from a Chicago group known as Urban City Development LLC, would redevelop the Brokerage with a 16-screen movie theater, 3-D theater, retail shops, restaurants, parking and loft apartments.

"We think the timing is good to move along with this, especially because the children's museum is so close to getting started," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm. "It's nice to have a couple of proposals to think about."

BDC sought proposals for the Brokerage in January after Urban City Development submitted an unsolicited bid to redevelop the 250,000-square-foot property, now home to Ruth's Chris Steak House, Bennigan's and Slapstix Comedy Club.

The city has owned the Brokerage since 1993, when it acquired the collection of four office buildings and a 276-space parking garage from the Bank of America for $5 million. The California bank seized control of the property after an urban festival and entertainment center failed.

The $6 million proposal from Cordish -- the developer currently revitalizing the Power Plant on Pier 4 with a Hard Rock Cafe and plans for a ESPN Zone restaurant and a Barnes & Noble bookstore -- includes mostly traditional retail stores, a coffee bar, clubs and restaurants.

Among Cordish's proposed tenants are Warner Bros., REI Sports Inc., Discovery Zone and a Nickelodeon store.

"We think with this partnership between our retail and entertainment and Port Discovery, we can create a synergy that can regenerate the entire area," said Reed Cordish, vice president of development. "We feel a retail link up Market Place to the Power Plant and Harborplace is crucial. To really create a dynamic atmosphere you need many attractions working together."

Cordish's plan would also convert the Brokerage's second floor into upscale night clubs featuring live entertainment and install a non-profit art "gallery row" anchored by the Maryland Art Place.

Reed Cordish added that the project -- a joint venture with the minority-owned Urban Asset Management Inc. -- would be entirely privately financed, and construction would take 24 months. Urban City Development's plan would add almost 100,000 square feet to the Brokerage -- including a Dave & Buster's-like arcade featuring virtual reality games -- and open by Christmas 1999.

In its submission to BDC, Urban City Development claims that its parent firm, Urban City Trust Inc., is involved with $100 million in new construction and that it manages properties valued at $750 million.

Brodie said the BDC intends to review and evaluate the proposals and make a recommendation to its board in the near future, although the agency does not have a specific timetable to select a winner.

Pub Date: 3/10/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.