Cordish Co. to develop Brokerage City picks developer of Power Plant to put life in failed project

Complex of 4 office buildings

Goal is to complement children's museum in the old Fishmarket

Inner Harbor

November 21, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

The city's economic development agency, in an effort to breathe life into another failed downtown tourist attraction, yesterday chose the Cordish Co. -- the successful redeveloper of the Power Plant -- to revitalize the Brokerage complex at 34 Market Place.

The city's announcement comes roughly a month before it will debut the nation's second-largest children's museum in the former Fishmarket adjacent to the Brokerage.

In selecting Cordish, the city underlined the importance of the $32 million Port Discovery museum -- considered a linchpin for redevelopment of the downtown's east side -- and the need for complimentary uses to support it.

"Obviously the children's museum is very important to the city, it's important to us that it succeed," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie,

president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency.

"And it's important that the Brokerage succeed, because it buttresses the children's museum and we want them to be compatible. Ideally, the Brokerage will have both day and nighttime activities. Given their [Cordish's] considerable success with the Power Plant, we felt this was the right choice to make."

Under Cordish's proposal, the firm and minority partner Urban Asset Management Inc. will invest $7.5 million to convert the Brokerage into a family oriented retail, entertainment and arts pavilion that would create more than 300 new jobs and millions of dollars in new property taxes.

Cordish will have exclusive rights to negotiate with the city for the next 90 days over how the Brokerage is to be used and under what terms. During that time, the firm will have to identify tenants, line up financing, reach agreement on initial lease terms and resolve other issues, Brodie said.

Joe Weinberg, a Cordish vice president, said the level of profit sharing has not yet been determined. The city agency and Cordish also must work out terms of a lease for the 230,000-square-foot property, now home to Ruth's Chris Steak House and Bennigan's. Brokerage tenants -- including offices that are 98 percent committed -- will stay.

"Our goal is to bring in major family oriented attractions to that part of town that complement the children's museum," Weinberg said.

Weinberg declined to identify any of the tenants Cordish hopes to attract. Previously, the firm said it would work to lure businesses such as Zainy Brainy, Discovery Zone or Nickelodeon.

Cordish's plan also includes installing an upscale night club and coffee bar featuring live entertainment, as well as a nonprofit art "gallery row" anchored by Maryland Art Place. The developer intends to begin construction within a year.

Cordish turned the Power Plant, a vacant, city-owned property, into a retail haven with a Barnes & Noble bookstore and the restaurants Hard Rock Cafe and ESPN Zone. The company also has developed urban entertainment and retail projects in cities ranging from Charleston, S.C. to Houston.

Cordish was selected over Urban City Development LLC, a Chicago developer that proposed to use Brokerage for a 16-screen movie theater, a 3-D theater, retail shops, restaurants, parking and loft apartments. The developer had submitted an unsolicited bid in January.

Brodie said his agency's recommendation to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke stems in part from Cordish's plan to share some of the Brokerage's profit with the city. Urban City's proposal called for unspecified city subsidies. Cordish sought no city money for the project.

Cordish's selection also represents a sort of vindication for the firm, whose plan to bring retail and parking to a vacant lot owned by Baltimore City Community College was rejected earlier this year.

"We've been a developer of urban projects around the country," Weinberg said. "We believe we can do the same at the Brokerage. If things has gone smoothly with the college, we'd be in the ground now."

The city has owned the Brokerage since 1993, when it spent $5 million to acquire the collection of four office buildings and a 278-space parking garage from Bank of America. The California bank had seized control of the property after an urban festival and entertainment center there failed.

The board of the Baltimore development agency also recommended to the mayor that the city accept a proposal from a Washington company to develop a 425-space garage on a parking lot at Pratt and President streets, near Little Italy. Gould Development Co.'s $7.2 million project will be completed in late 1999.

And, the board recommended a two-year extension of the Charles Center urban renewal plan, which expires in March, so city officials can review it. The landmark plan sets height and other controls for buildings and open spaces in the 33-acre area that extends from Light Street to Saratoga Street.

Pub Date: 11/21/98

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