Arundel Mills entertainment key to casino, developer says

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 12, 2010

David S. Cordish remembers when downtown Baltimore was nothing more than an industrial wasteland.

The 70-year-old real-estate developer gazes out of the sixth-floor office window of his company's headquarters in a century-old power generation station at the Inner Harbor, relishing the part he played in turning the run-down waterfront into a vibrant tourist and retail magnet.

"You see that?" he asks, pointing to a hotel and restaurants near his signature Power Plant Live! development. "It wouldn't be there if we didn't build here. A lot of this area changed after we came."

Cordish, who says he has never missed a day of work in 45 years, has spent the better part of his career bringing distressed urban areas back to life, building retail and mixed-used developments in desolate parts of Atlantic City, Louisville and Charleston, S.C.

Over the past year, the president and chairman of the Cordish Cos. has turned much of his attention to a place that is somewhat different from any other in the company's vast portfolio: Arundel Mills, a hulking outlet and entertainment center off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in the Maryland suburbs.

Cordish said his plan for the shopping mall will enhance the experience there -- by adding a casino with 4,750 slot machines.

The venue, which would include a steakhouse, two bars on the gaming floor and an entertainment lounge, would be the largest slots casino in Maryland and one of the largest of its kind in the country.

"It's a separate building, but it has access from the mall," Cordish said sitting in an office filled with framed family photos, pictures of him with President Obama and Beyoncé, and sports memorabilia, including a picture of him with tennis pro Roger Federer after a match between the two. "You wouldn't walk over there if you don't want to."

A potential moneymaker

Arundel Mills emerged unexpectedly as the lead venue for slots in Maryland last year.

Under state legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2007 and a referendum approved by voters in 2008, potential operators could bid for a slots license at facilities in Anne Arundel within two miles of Route 295.

At the time, the most talked about location was Laurel Park racetrack.

But Cordish, who has a gaming division in his company that has two Hard Rock hotel and casinos in Florida, said he sought the slots license for Arundel Mills because of its location and the entertainment it already offers: the 24-screen Cinemark theater; Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament; and Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Cafe.

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