A decade or more ago, when I first visited Baltimore, the Cordish strategy seemed like something positive. Give them huge sums of cash, and they ensure tenants for ready-made entertainment districts.
Trouble is, the tenants are cookie-cutter chains, and there's nothing unique or local about any of it.
At some point I realized that locally owned businesses could achieve precisely the same desired end if they were awarded a like sum of money, with none of the money flowing through a pipeline to corporate headquarters elsewhere. Given the conceptual sterility of the typical Cordish project (Fourth Street Live springs to mind in this context), keeping the money local makes sense from aesthetic as well as fiscal rationales.
Thus, I'm delighted to read Rick at The 'Ville Voice blog tear into Mayor Jer with respect to Cordish's latest outrage. And congrats to the C-J for sticking to the story.
Jerry Needs to Get Away
... But the bigger blow came Saturday, when the C-J led with news that Cordish has kind of told city officials that, well, no, they’re not going to explain what they did with all that taxpayer money they took to re-design a bowling alley on Fourth Street.
Pressured by the newspaper to explain how it spent the extra $950,000 that Abramson championed giving them to remodel the failed Lucky Strike, Cordish said it had given all the detail it was required to do, and then the Mayor said the explanation was good enough for him.
Now we can confirm what we’ve known all along. Cordish might have, maybe, possibly, spent half that money on remodeling the space, but most of it went in the Cordish profit center. They sure aren’t producing any drywall receipts, and no one’s willing to admit what the facility paid to get Paris Hilton to show up for a few minutes Derby Eve.
Everyone’s outraged, and Abramson’s growing list of detractors has a bunch of new ammunition. The Mayor’s race is looking a lot more do-able for potential candidates like Jim King, David Tandy and Greg Fischer. And there’s bound to be a Republican out there ready to step up.
Abramson has promised a decision on his future soon. But right now he’s just hit one in the lake and is scrambling to make par.
Additional Reading: C.D. Kaplan recounts some of the Mayor’s history of love for Cordish. And Eric Crawford explains why Cordish’s track record in places like St. Louis spells more trouble for us.