Cordish way spells success in Baltimore Developer's talent transforming cities spreads to hometown

Power Plant exceeds hopes

Brokerage, Pier Six are next on agenda for being revived


December 27, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

David Cordish is renowned for saying, "More is more."

In the entertainment realm, multiple, complementary tenants feed off one another, magnifying the level of activity for all, he says.

It's part of the Cordish Co. philosophy of development -- a philosophy that has spawned dozens of successful projects in a half-dozen states.

But until recently, those projects were outside Maryland. With the success of the Power Plant project, Cordish, president and chairman of the Cordish Co., has come into his own on his turf.

With the Pier Four complex under its belt, Cordish Co. has been tapped to revive two other projects in the harbor's east end -- the long- moribund Brokerage in Market Place and the Pier Six concert pavilion.

In addition, Cordish, in conjunction with Towson-based Heritage Properties Inc., has redeveloped the long-vacant former Hutzler's department store in Towson, where a Barnes & Noble anchors the renamed Towson Circle.

And in North Baltimore, there's Hopkins Square, 100,000 square feet of retail space at 31st and Charles streets where Xando, a chain of European-style coffee-and-cocktail bars, recently became the first tenant.

"It is satisfying to do something in your hometown," Cordish said in a recent interview. "I feel very good. I know we've extended the harbor. But when you make a difference, whether it's here or Houston or Detroit you feel pretty good about it."

The Power Plant has been a greater success than its developers had ever imagined.

"The reality has exceeded the dream," Cordish said. "We do these entertainment projects around the country so we have a pretty good idea of the kind of clients we want and what will work. But I didn't expect the overwhelming, off-the-chart success we've seen."

Carroll R. Armstrong, president and CEO of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, says the Power Plant rapidly "is becoming one of the most significant projects in the Inner Harbor" -- playing a crucial role in Baltimore's second renaissance.

"I think what the Power Plant represents is a bridge," Armstrong said. "I look at the Inner Harbor as one side of the stream and Fells Point as the other side. What is happening right now is we're creating those footsteps to bridge that stream."

It isn't the first time the Cordish Co. has had a dramatic effect on a city.

In Houston, where Bayou Place -- an entertainment complex that includes restaurants, clubs and a live theater -- opened in an old convention center in the downtown theater district on Dec. 31, 1997, the results have been far-reaching.

"It's the single most important development in downtown in the last 30 years," said Jordy Tollett, president of the Houston convention bureau and director of the city's convention and entertainment department. "We believe it has been the key element in making people believe downtown could be a viable place to live and play."

With the project in place, a 3,500-car underground garage that used to run at about 72 percent occupancy now operates at about 100 percent, Tollett said. Additional parking revenue of $72,000 has come in each month since January 1998.

Also since the opening of Bayou Place, about 15 clubs have opened in the area, along with 1,500 residential units refurbished from old buildings. Another 3,000 new residential units have been completed, Tollett said.

Construction is expected to start on a second phase after the first of the year.

"We haven't seen the full impact yet," Tollett said. "Cordish's idea that more generates more has proven to be very true."

Locally, the Cordish Co.'s talent is evident from the crowds and sales numbers enjoyed by Power Plant tenants.

In its first year of operation, Inner Harbor Hard Rock revenue exceeded $13 million, according to Cordish, the property's landlord. The restaurant ranked second in its chain for sales per square foot -- topped only by the Orlando location -- according to Cordish officials. A Hard Rock spokesman, who declined to provide sales numbers, confirmed that the restaurant had exceeded expectations.

Although Walt Disney Co. consistently declines to provide financial details about its individual operations, Disney officials clearly are happy with the crowds that continue to show up at the first location of ESPN Zone, Disney's newest sports entertainment concept.

"Disney numbers are spectacular and well, well, well above projections," said Cordish, who said he could not provide specifics.

Nearby Barnes & Noble had a record-breaking opening, with 2,500 people attending, according to Allison Parker, a spokeswoman for the Cordish Co. Currently, sales are 30 percent above projections, Parker said. The new Baltimore location appears on corporate Christmas cards and will be on the cover of the company's annual report.

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