Cordish wins national award for work in downtown Houston; Urban Land Institute praises Bayou Place


The Cordish Co. was recognized by the Urban Land Institute yesterday for its conversion of a former convention center in Houston into a downtown retail and entertainment center.

The ULI presentation to the Baltimore-based development firm for its Bayou Place project marks the first time in the 20-year history of the awards that a real estate company has won four of the prestigious awards.

"The unqualified success of Bayou Place is a model for the rehabilitation of a 'white elephant,' " wrote ULI, a 63-year-old nonprofit education and research institute that studies land use and real estate development policy. "The success story has mended a black hole in the heart of the downtown financial and theater districts."

In addition to its $22 million Bayou Place, for which Cordish won the Award of Excellence, the firm has been recognized in past years for its work rejuvenating the Furness House at 19-21 South St. in downtown Baltimore; Rainbow Centre, a $36 million project in Niagara Falls, N.Y.; and Charleston Place, a $72 million, mixed-use hotel, parking, office and retail project in South Carolina.

Cordish began transforming the derelict Albert Thomas Convention Center to Bayou Place in 1994, anchoring the 150,000-square-foot project with an eight-screen Angelika Film Center and a 3,000-seat Aerial Theater that features live performances.

"It's a project that has caught people's imaginations," said Blake Cordish, a Cordish Co. vice president. "It was designed to be unique and unlike anything in the whole metropolitan market, and it has changed people's entertainment patterns. I think people find it exciting. It's had a big psychological impact."

Bayou Place's success has led Cordish to expand the project. A $120 million addition, slated for completion in the summer of 2001, will include a four-star, 500-room hotel, 1,000-space parking garage, Hard Rock Cafe restaurant and 250,000 square feet of retail space.

In recognizing Cordish for Bayou Place, the ULI judges also noted that the project became a "cornerstone of creating a street and night life in a city where such activity was totally nonexistent."

Cordish's Bayou Place was one of 11 projects to receive ULI awards this year, out of 70 entries. Also recognized were Coors Field in Denver and the John Hancock Center in Chicago.

ULI awards are based on projects' financial viability, the resourceful use of land, design, relevance to contemporary issues and sensitivity to the community and environment.

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