Cordish asking city for $3 million rent break to improve Power Plant

The Cordish Cos. is seeking $3 million worth of rent breaks on two city-owned properties near the Pier 4 Power Plant complex in exchange for making $6 million to $9 million worth of improvements to help keep existing tenants and attract new ones — possibly including a branch of Maryland-based Phillips Seafood restaurants.

Company principals David Cordish and Zed Smith met Thursday with directors of the Baltimore Development Corp. behind closed doors to outline their plans for improving the Power Plant, explain why they are seeking financial assistance from the city and describe how they would apply proceeds from any rent abatement.

They said the Power Plant property, an Inner Harbor landmark, is currently about 40 percent vacant following departures of the ESPN Zone and Gold's Gym. In addition, they said, leases are due to expire soon for two more large tenants, the Barnes and Noble bookstore and the Hard Rock Cafe.

To keep the complex an attractive setting for stores, entertainment venues and upper-level offices, they said, they need to make a variety of improvements, including possibly subdividing or configuring vacant space, upgrading mechanical systems and making sure the building complies with city codes.

Cordish pays the city $1,000 a year in rent plus 22 percent of net profits for the 161,000-square-foot Power Plant complex, which includes about 45,000 square feet of retail space. Power Plant net profits amounted to $9,800 in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, according to the BDC.

Cordish has proposed that abatements come from rent the company pays on two nearby properties: The ground rent for land beneath the Pier 4 Power Plant Annex, for which it pays $129,000 a year, and rent associated with the Pier 5 garage, for which it pays a base rent and a percentage of receipts.

BDC officials said they could not immediately provide a figure for how much rent Cordish pays for the garage property.

In response to the Cordish Cos. request, the BDC directors made a recommendation to be forwarded to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The recommendation was made in closed session, and the terms were not disclosed afterward.

Kaliope Parthemos, deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development and a member of the BDC board, said the recommendation will be presented to the mayor within the next several weeks for a final decision.

"We're trying to make a decision about what to do because it's 40 percent vacant and it's city property," she said.

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