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Philadelphia's old Spectrum site to be entertainment-restaurant district

The Cordish Cos., based in Baltimore, has earned a national reputation for specializing in retail, dining, and entertainment ventures that, many say, transform urban areas.

The Cordish Cos., based in Baltimore, has earned a national reputation for specializing in retail, dining, and entertainment ventures that, many say, transform urban areas.

Cordish's handiwork is in such places as Baltimore's Inner Harbor; Houston; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Hollywood, Fla. The names of the attractions are distinguished by an exclamation point.

Other projects include Atlantic City LIVE!, across from the Atlantic City Convention Center, and Maryland LIVE!, under construction in Hanover, Md. Now Cordish will embark on its first stadium-area development: Philly LIVE! at 1100 Pattison Ave. in South Philadelphia.

Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider and Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko will unveil plans for the restaurant-and-entertainment district with Cordish vice president Reed Cordish at 10 a.m. Thursday at the stadium complex. It will be built on real estate that once was home to the Spectrum.

"We wanted to create a showpiece for Philadelphia . . . in keeping with the stature and prominence of the stadiums around us," Reed Cordish said in a phone interview Wednesday. "The existing LIVE! districts are all vastly different from one another with unique tenants, architecture, and layout."

He said he expected Philadelphia's district to be even more distinctive. "Other cities are looking into this type of stadium development, and we believe Philly LIVE! will set a new standard," Cordish said.

It will include a dozen restaurants - among them Chickie's & Pete's - and other local and national brands. Also planned are stages for live bands, and a sports-viewing venue that Cordish hopes will rival an ESPN Zone.

The Marketplace, featuring food and beverage options, will be one of six anchor venues. Cordish described it as "the living room or heartbeat of the district, with soaring ceilings, that connects the rest of the complex."

Cordish's LIVE! projects typically involve a partnership between the company and either local or state government or the private sector. In Atlantic City, it was with government, and here Cordish is allied with Comcast-Spectacor.

Reed Cordish said Philly LIVE! was receiving no public subsidy and will pay full taxes.

The LIVE! concept began as a complement to Baltimore's long-developed Inner Harbor. Cordish has two entities side-by-side there - Power Plant opened in 1997 with restaurants overlooking the waterfront, and Power Plant LIVE! opened in 2000 with bars and nightclubs.

"This is our adult entertainment zone . . . if you're in your 20s and 30s and you want to go to the club scene," said Tom Noonan, president and chief executive officer of Visit Baltimore, the city's tourism arm. "It's a synergy of music, lights, and bands all packaged together on the 50-yard line in the heart of our downtown."

Cordish this year replaced the former ESPN Zone at Power Plant with a much bigger Phillips Seafood restaurant. Power Plant LIVE! recently added bars and restaurants as part of a $10 million renovation.

"He keeps investing in his product and keeps it fresh," Noonan said of David Cordish, a Baltimore native who is chief executive officer of the company and Reed's father. "It's absolutely a big part of what we sell as a convention and tourism destination."

Cordish made its mark in Atlantic City with The Walk, a giant outlet mall in the heart of downtown. The Walk opened in August 2004 and linked the Boardwalk to the new Atlantic City Convention Center, giving conventioneers something to do besides gamble.

Atlantic City LIVE! is the fourth and latest expansion of The Walk. It was financed partly by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. It is scheduled to open next year and will feature live bands, stage areas, restaurants, and nightclubs.

"This project has the potential to attract a broader visitor base to add to Atlantic City's current offerings," said Jeff Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority.

Noonan predicts Philly LIVE! will do the same for the city's stadium complex.

"It's real important for Philly to have nightlife entertainment around there," he said. "Philly LIVE! will create . . . a place to go before and after the games."