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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Aug. 8, 201707:00 AM EST

The Cordish Companies: A resume of big projects

Baltimore-based developer could be considered for Khan’s Shipyards project.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

The Cordish Companies, identified as a developer interested in Jacksonville’s Shipyards project, has a more than 100-year history of work with a focus since the 2000s, on sports and entertainment districts.

Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping said Friday the Baltimore, Maryland-based company was one of the developers “interested in helping us out.”

Lamping, Jaguars owner Shad Khan, Mayor Lenny Curry and city Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa toured three Cordish projects two weeks ago during a cross-country trip on Khan’s private jet.

Stops were made in Kansas City, St. Louis and Baltimore, where Cordish developed sports-district projects.

Jacksonville wants to redevelop the riverfront Shipyards and Metro Park properties.

In April, Khan’s Iguana Investments of Florida secured the right to develop the land and has about a year to deliver an economic development agreement to the city.

Curry, who was in Boston on Monday watching the Jaguars practice, was not available for comment.

Administration officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cordish representatives did not respond to a phone message or an email.

The Power & Light District, a $850 million retail, entertainment, office and residential district in Kansas City, Missouri.

Cordish’s history

Louis Cordish founded the company in 1910 and it still operates as a private business in Baltimore.

Since 1968, the company has been run by CEO and Chairman David Cordish.

By 1981, Cordish began venturing into the hotel and gaming business and in 1999 it started developing Live! Districts, which feature a mix of entertainment options.

Cordish became more active in sports and entertainment districts by the early 2000s.

Today the company specializes in commercial real estate, sports and entertainment districts, hotels and casinos, high-rise residential and office parks, and international development.

Its portfolio includes Bayou Place entertainment district in Houston; Fourth Street Live! In Louisville, Kentucky; and several proposed luxury hotel projects by Loews.

Cordish also has been active in Florida. It was behind the construction of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood in 2004.

The toured projects

One question about the Shipyards and Metro Park project is what it will cost taxpayers.

Several Cordish projects, including Ballpark Village in St. Louis, were authorized with the help of taxpayer funds.

Ballpark Village is a 10-acre mixed-use development next to Busch Stadium, home to the MLB Cardinals, which was built when Lamping was the team’s president.

According to legislation passed in 2012, the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen approved the use of $17 million in local and state financial incentives for the $100 million first phase of Ballpark Village.

The Cardinals and Cordish secured additional funds using New Market Tax Credits, which provide tax relief against a company’s federal income taxes in exchange for making equity investments in low-income or underdeveloped areas. This can often lessen the incentives burden for local municipalities.

The first phase opened in 2014 with bars, restaurants and an entertainment venue.

In December, aldermen approved $16 million in tax incentives ahead of the $220 million second-phase expansion, which will bring in residential and office space components.

The public portion also includes a 1 percent sales tax on purchases made within Ballpark Village.

In total, St. Louis taxpayers and the state will be responsible for about 30 percent of the estimated $700 million to develop the entire site, according to the 2012 legislation.

Calls to the St. Louis mayor and four aldermen were not returned.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Curry’s group toured the Power & Light district, an $850 million development spanning nine city blocks next to the Spring Center, an indoor arena used for concerts and sporting events.

When it was approved in 2003, Kansas City issued $295 million in bonds to Cordish to help finance the project.

The district features more restaurants, bars, office and residential space than the development in St. Louis, along with the entertainment and music venue, Kansas City Live!

The Power & Light District covers nine blocks and has 9.1 million annual visitors.

Like Jacksonville today, at the turn of the century Kansas City was trying to redevelop a part of its blighted downtown with a catalytic project.

Spokesman Chris Hernandez, speaking on behalf of city manager Troy Schulte, said the Power & Light District was a “bold plan when you consider where Kansas City was at the time.”

“Those blocks of downtown were pretty underdeveloped,” said Hernandez, who described what was a forgotten neighborhood that was home to a few small businesses and many parking lots.

“What we have now is a thriving arena that is booked nonstop and an entertainment district which is going gangbusters,” he said.  

Recently, the district has been the unofficial host to fans of MLS World Cup games and World Series runs by the MLB Royals in 2014 and 2015.

Still, the district hasn’t been the huge financial win local taxpayers had expected since it opened in 2007.

“Some of the projections that were made when that deal was announced were pretty rosy, and would have demanded really high rates of return,” Hernandez said.

“So, we’re still paying for some of the incentives via our general fund,” he said.

Even with nearly full occupancy rates and high attendance, the district generates about $4 million to $6 million a year in revenue, leaving taxpayers responsible for most of the debt service obligation from the city’s general fund through 2040.

“We’ve learned a lesson since, however, and now we don’t need to use those types of incentives to bring developers downtown,” he said.

Hernandez said since the end of 2012, Kansas City has seen $2 billion in projects “started, completed and proposed, most of which won’t get incentives deals anywhere near Power & Light.”  

He said demand for downtown Kansas City property and the “lessons learned” have led the city to be a better negotiator when new developers bring in ideas.

“It’s certainly a reward for those early choices,” he said.

Cordish has been a major developer in its hometown of Baltimore for decades, spending time and money in the city’s Inner Harbor.

Projects include the Power Plant and Pier IV, a mixed-use waterfront project Cordish developed in 2001 and 2003, featuring restaurants, retail, office and other entertainment options.

The company also has what it calls its “flagship co-working space,” Spark Baltimore, a 30,000-square foot office for startups and entrepreneurs.

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Ballpark Village has events throughout the year, not just during baseball season. Here fans gather to watch St. Louis Blues hockey.


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