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Revitalizing Downtowns

Large-scale mixed-use projects and unique entertainment concepts can activate urban areas.

Retail development is a tough business these days. The amount of new retail space coming on-line in 2009 represents a big drop from previous years. However, that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities. It does mean the kinds of projects that will succeed today will take extra-creative commitment from stakeholders.

Opportunities to look for include downtown redevelopments. Downtowns have great significance to the broader community of a metropolitan area. Successful downtowns can become a living room for the city — a place with a unique energy level, a place for the community to gather, a place where the community feels ownership.

In many cases, developing downtown means taking on some daunting redevelopment challenges, including radically altering the perceptions of previously downtrodden areas. Revitalization of distressed areas is about changing negative perceptions and instilling confidence in a market or even creating a new market. It is psychological. In part, Cordish measures success by what happens around our districts. It is ultimately the spin-off benefits that are most gratifying and meaningful to our public sector partners.

A key is seeking community input in the visioning phase. For example, in Louisville, Ky., Cordish is partnering with the city and the state to expand our successful Fourth Street Live! project. The $450 million development, called the Center City District, will total six blocks that will include a new retail, entertainment, office and residential complex and a new retail corridor linking the complex to Fourth Street Live!

Retaining historic buildings is one way to maintain authenticity. This is something we kept in mind in developing the Power & Light District in Kansas City, which encompassed nine city blocks while preserving several historic buildings including two historic theaters and the President Hilton Hotel.

A feature that experienced developers can bring to the table in today's challenging environment is a long-term commitment to projects. Long-term holders of real estate passionately believe each development should be authentic to its community and meaningful to the neighborhood in terms of design, planning, architecture and tenancy.

At Cordish, our sole focus is to create developments that will stand the test of time and appreciate in value. And our business model calls for us to remain an active guiding force in our developments over the long term. Unfortunately, quality building is a dying art in the development business. The real estate industry is seeing fewer builder/developers with extensive in-house resources. We believe, however, that in-house development and construction resources are critical to creating successful large-scale projects.

Another key to a company's success is vertical integration. We've striven to keep control of as many aspects of developments as possible. On the retail side is a division that focuses on creating unique entertainment concepts, including restaurants and clubs. Launched more than a decade ago, Entertainment Concepts Investors (ECI) currently operates more than a dozen different concepts in excess of 50 locations.

This can mean learning new tricks. Over the last decade we have become focused on gaming as an anchor for broader retail and entertainment destinations. True to our philosophy of vertical integration, we have a comprehensive gaming management team so we can control every facet of gaming-based developments.

You can never go wrong by going the extra mile to make sure things are done right. Whether choosing materials for construction, deciding how to maintain a development or operating concepts within a project, we do our best to ensure quality is maintained. It might be hard, but you'll never go wrong with that philosophy.

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