The failed Baltimore Fishmarket entertainment complex downtown may finally have found a savior who can get its doors opened again.
Prominent Baltimore developer David Cordish is negotiating details of a partnership agreement with the Fishmarket's Boston owner that could lead to the reopening of the facility, which has been closed for four years, city officials said yesterday.
Though the talks still could hit a snag, officials were optimistic enough that the parties will reach a final agreement that they have put on hold threats made last month to begin condemnation proceedings against the Fishmarket.
"The only reason we haven't moved quickly on that [condemnation] is that David Cordish has now entered the picture. He has an agreement to come in with some kind of partnership arrangement, the details of which I don't have," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said at his weekly press briefing yesterday.
Mr. Schmoke, who said that he has talked to Mr. Cordish twice about the Fishmarket, added, "We've got a new player into this matter who wants to move things forward. He's got a track record with the city that is very credible. He gives us some confidence that we may get to a resolution of this matter soon. The condemnation option is still there."
Mr. Cordish -- who has developed and managed office buildings and retail and entertainment centers here and around the country -- was said by his office yesterday to be out of the country and unavailable for comment. Officials at the McCourt Co., owner of the Fishmarket, referred all questions about the talks with Mr. Cordish to company president Frank McCourt, who could not be reached for comment.
Since it closed in July 1989, the Fishmarket has become a dilapidated eyesore and a drain on the city's ambitious plans to pump new life into the Market Place corridor just east of the Gallery at Harborplace. Last month, Mr. Schmoke threatened that the city might take legal action to gain control of the Fishmarket, which owes several hundred thousand dollars in back property taxes, officials say.
The city sold the 1906 landmark, which for decades was the city's leading commercial fish market, to the McCourt Co. for $900,000 in 1985. The company spent $25 million turning the building into half a dozen themed nightclubs and bars and a 1,000-seat concert hall and opened it in November 1988. But McCourt abruptly closed the complex less than a year later after a dispute with its operator, Nashville-based Opryland USA. Several efforts to reopen it have been unsuccessful.
Michael V. Seipp, vice president of the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp., said Mr. Cordish told him that he was seeking a 50-50 partnership with the McCourt Co. in the project but that the amount of his investment and other financial details have yet to be worked out.
"What Mr. Cordish is bringing is experience in hands-on management of an entertainment complex," Mr. Seipp said. Among the projects Mr. Cordish has been involved in, he said, are large entertainment centers in Houston and Salt Lake City.
Mr. Seipp says Mr. Cordish sees the Fishmarket "as reopening similar to what it's been before" but with more of an emphasis on family-oriented entertainment on weekend afternoons.
Among the Baltimore area projects Mr. Cordish has been involved in are the recent renovation of the historic Furness House on South Street downtown and the renovation of Joppatowne Plaza in Harford County. Mr. Cordish's firm, the Cordish Co., is also part-owner of North Carroll Plaza in Hampstead in Carroll County.