Developer has track record of 'urban makeovers'

Jerri Stroud - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Cordish Co., the Cardinals' partner in developing Ballpark Village, has earned a reputation as a shrewd developer of urban developments over the last 25 years.

Cordish President David S. Cordish has been called "the king of urban makeovers," a man who drives a hard bargain but delivers fresh, vibrant developments, succeeding where others have failed.

The family-owned company has nearly 100 years of experience in property development, starting in its hometown, Baltimore. Louis Cordish began building apartments and offices there about 1910. His son, Paul, was active in the company until his death in 2003.

David Cordish's sons, Blake, Reed and Jonathan, are vice presidents. The corporate office also includes some other family members and a small, tightknit group of experts in entertainment, retailing, food service, gaming and hotel development.

As a private company, Cordish doesn't reveal its revenue or the value of its holdings, but its net worth is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Andi Udris, the president of Kansas City's Union Station development, calls David Cordish "an urban development genius" who has the resources, contacts and commitment to turn moribund urban centers into thriving nests of nightlife, shopping, offices and urban living.

"He is a very hard bargainer, but when he tells you he's going to deliver, he delivers," said Udris, who recruited Cordish as the developer of the Kansas City Power & Light District. The $600 million project is under construction on the south side of Kansas City's downtown.

Bob Eury, president of Central Houston Inc., said David Cordish's leadership of the Urban Development Action Grant program under President Jimmy Carter piqued his interest in urban development through public-private partnerships. Since then, he has pursued projects in places that other developers avoid.

Cordish is among several Baltimore developers who were inspired by James Rouse, who began the redevelopment of Baltimore's Inner Harbor and later led the redevelopment of Union Station here.

Cordish also has been active in the Inner Harbor, a trendy part of downtown Baltimore. The company headquarters is in the Power Plant, an old electric generating station-turned-entertainment center.

Mixed-use projects like Ballpark Village are among the most risky in real estate development, said Christopher B. Leinberger, a visiting fellow in metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"Most developers don't know how to do it," Leinberger said. "Cordish is the exception.

"The biggest risk is that you have to have critical mass," Leinberger continued.

The Cordish Co. "comes in with a large enough project that allows critical mass to be achieved very quickly," Leinberger said.

Leaders in other cities say the Cordish projects are jewels that have led other developers to take a new look at downtown.

Todd Cassidy, director of economic development at the Kentucky Department of Tourism, said Cordish worked with Louisville and state officials on revitalization of an urban mall that had no real hope of recovery.

The result, Fourth Street Live! is a $66 million entertainment and retail center that opened three years ago with nightclubs, bars, stores and entertainment venues. It features a Hard Rock Cafe, bowling and billiards centers and restaurants including Maker's Mark, a Cordish-developed eatery named for the bourbon brand.

Fourth Street Live! — combined with several other projects — has "completely turned downtown Louisville around," Cassidy said.

In Houston, Cordish has continued to expand Bayou Place despite the project's difficult site in the center of Houston's theater district, Eury said.

Bayou Place's movie theater is small compared to a nearby multiplex, but it's still regarded by some film buffs as the best place to see a movie, Eury said. Cordish also has found new restaurants to replace some that failed. He's begun developing offices and wants to add housing.

"It's an amazingly hard site," Eury said. But, he added, "they don't get rid of projects. That's a credit to them. They're not doing (projects) to flip them."

Leinberger, the Brookings Fellow, says St. Louis should embrace Cordish Co.'s vision for Ballpark Village if the city wants to prosper in the long run.

"If you don't offer this, you're not going to be in play and companies will go elsewhere," he said. "If you want to attract a creative class, you had better have a hip downtown or they aren't going to show up."

The Cordish Co. at a glance

Family-owned developer of shopping malls, entertainment and mixed use urban projects.

Top official: David S. Cordish, president and chairman.

Founded: 1910 by Louis Cordish, David's grandfather, who built apartment and office complexes in Baltimore. His son, Paul Cordish, was active in the business until his death in 2003. David Cordish's sons, Blake, Jonathan and Reed, are vice presidents. Blake, who is vice president of development, is closely involved with Ballpark Village.

Headquarters: Baltimore.

Employees: 100 corporate employees. Several thousand employees who work in the developments, including those at themed restaurants developed by the company.



The Best in Urban Development

The Cordish Company is a third generation, family owned business. Paul L. Cordish founded the Company in 1932 and remained active with the Company until his early 90’s and his passing in March, 2003. Paul Cordish’s legacy of integrity, humanity and hard work carry on as the core values of the Company.

In 1968, Paul Cordish's son, David S. Cordish, founded the real estate division of the Company of which he is President & Chairman.

All three of David Cordish's sons, Jonathan, Blake and Reed Cordish are active in the business. Blake and Reed Cordish are Vice Presidents in the real estate arm of the Cordish Company with responsibilities over the entertainment/mixed-use and restaurant/club divisions. Jonathan Cordish is the Chairman of its media/film division as well as an advisor to the private equity investment division.

The Cordish Company is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, with regional offices and managers throughout the country. The Cordish Company's employees share a unique esprit-de-corps that has produced consistent excellence in its projects, and are the key ingredient in its growth over the past decades.

The Cordish Company's origins date back to 1910, when Louis Cordish began developing office and apartment complexes in the Baltimore/Washington area, and encompasses four generations of privately-held family ownership. Over the last ten decades The Cordish Company has grown into a multi-billion conglomerate including one of the leading real estate development companies in the United States and a diverse group of successful operating businesses.

The company was organized along its present line by David Cordish in the mid 1960s. David, Louis' grandson, is now chairman of The Cordish Company. Three of David’s sons: Jon, Blake and Reed, are principals in The Cordish Company. The Cordish Company's real estate development and operating companies are diversified, with divisions focused on entertainment/mixed-use, gaming/lodging, shopping centers, restaurants/clubs/music, office, and residential/student housing.

Non-real estate operating subsidiaries include a media distribution company and a private equity investment group. The company is the only developer to receive five prestigious Urban Land Institute Awards of Excellence, and has received consistent recognition as the leading national developer for urban revitalization projects. The Cordish Company enters its eleventh decade well-capitalized, with significant liquidity and highly energized to continue its growth.

The Cordish Company remains a family-owned business that values quality and excellence in its operations, long-term relationships and integrity. The Cordish Company has assembled fully integrated teams of highly dedicated and knowledgeable professionals to manage all facets of its businesses. As a testimony to the Company's commitment to quality and the long-term vision of its leadership, the Cordish Company still owns and manages virtually every business it has developed since inception.

Best known for its real estate expertise, The Cordish Company is the largest and most successful developer of entertainment districts and concepts in the United States. In particular, the company has unparalleled experience in creating and revitalizing high-profile destinations in urban core locations. Many of the Cordish Company's projects involve public/private partnerships and are of unique significance to the cities in which they are located. A prime example is the company's prominent role in the redevelopment of four highly successful projects in Baltimore's world-famous Inner Harbor.

The Cordish Company has received the highest possible national awards in its various areas of expertise. In real estate, the Cordish Company has received an unprecedented five Urban Land Institute Awards of Excellence. Its media distribution subsidiary, Cordish Media Inc., has distributed five Academy Award-nominated films, including one Academy Award winner.