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Fourth Street Live!

Cordish Company
gives Louisville something to crow about

Entertainment complex has brought nightlife
back to downtown, merchants say

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 2004) – It’s a typical Saturday night at 4th Street Live!, downtown Louisville’s hot new mega entertainment complex. Music fills the air as throngs of people meander the two-level open-air venue, perusing the restaurants, shops and lounges like so many magazines on a bookstore rack.
Found among the masses early in the evening is an eclectic mix, including grandparents, couples with young children in tow, and teenagers. Wristbands, issued with a flash of ID at the entrance, control who can buy drinks at any of the alcoholic beverage stations positioned along the street within the complex.

Fourth St. Live

Kentucky Edition cover
of the August issue.

Later, as kids are tucked into mini vans and driven home, the crowd thickens with revelers, chatting in groups and moving in and out of the restaurants and bars, many of which are open until 4 a.m.
“I get off work at 2:30 a.m. on weekends, and when I leave, the street is packed with people,” said Jennifer Clem, 21, a waitress at T.G.I. Friday’s. “I’ve lived here all my life, and when I see that, I can’t believe I’m in Louisville.”
The scene would no doubt please executives of the Cordish Co., the Baltimore-based developer responsible for creating the complex. In 2002, the company purchased for $1 from the city of Louisville the former Galleria, a 1980s style shopping mall that had, along with big hair and Members Only jackets, lost its appeal among contemporary Louisvillians.
Cordish, well-known and respected for its real estate expertise, is the largest developer of entertainment districts and concepts in the country. At the company’s helm is chairman David Cordish, whose grandfather, Louis Cordish, in 1910 began developing office and apartment complexes in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C, area. The company encompasses four generations of privately held family ownership and over the past 10 decades has grown into multi-billion dollar conglomerate.
4th Street Live! is one of several entertainment centers recently developed by Cordish. The most similar to 4th Street Live! is Power Plant Live!, which opened in Baltimore in phases from 2001 to 2002. Located two blocks from the city’s Inner Harbor, the two-square-block entertainment district includes 15 bars, restaurants, comedy and dance clubs and other entertainment venues as well as loft offices.
Cordish also operates in Baltimore the Power Plant, a mixed-use project that includes the first ESPN zone in the country as well as Barnes & Nobles, Hard Rock Cafe, Gold’s Gym and office space. Last year, the development attracted more than 10 million visitors.
In addition to 4th Street Live! and it’s Maryland developments, Cordish owns similar complexes in New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, South Carolina, Texas and Florida.
Like it did with Baltimore’s Power Plant Live!, Cordish has filled its Louisville development with a hip and trendy tenant mix of national and regional operators. Hard Rock Cafe, its 35-foot neon guitar sign one of 4th Street Live!’s most conspicuous beacons, is among them. Generating a 2 1/2-hour wait on a typical Saturday evening, the 8,500-square-foot restaurant offers casual dining amidst a plethora of trademark memorabilia, which includes guitars and clothing from artists such as Ringo Starr, Elvis Presley, Aerosmith, Van Halen and ZZ Top.
Next door to Hard Rock at street level is the entrance to the 12,000-square-foot Red Cheetah Lounge, an upscale nightclub complete with cheetah print carpeting, sculpted metal palm trees, dance floor and VIP area.
Other ground level eateries are T.G.I. Fridays and Red Star Tavern, featuring steaks, chops and seafood along with an extensive drink list including specialty martinis and beers. Burgers, sandwiches and kid-friendly selections are also available.
Located on the second level are Parrot Beach, a tropical island-themed bar, Cold Stone Creamery, Rascal’s Comedy Club, CVS Pharmacy, Fashion Shop, Bartinis, and Hogan Real Estate.

Hard Rock in Fourth St. Live

Photo by Don Ward

Hard Rock Cafe

Although it has an array of places in which to eat, drink and be merry, 4th Street Live! also can be enjoyed from outside. A glass roof – a Galleria leftover – shelters the area from rain, and on the second floor balcony are a number of tables and chairs. Beer and mixed drinks are readily available from outdoor, mobile vendors, and an arena liquor license allows patrons to move freely about with cups in hand. Television screens of various sizes complete the techno-age atmosphere.
Whether the outdoor crowds will continue when the weather cools remains to be seen. “We expect some seasonality to the project and most promotions will be planned for the spring, summer and fall. We haven’t yet determined whether we will use heaters,” said Cordish’s director of marketing, Kimber Goodwin, a Kentucky native and University of Louisville graduate who has been with the company for three years.
Although by the end of July 4th Street Live! was attracting large crowds, several tenants had yet to open. Among them were Lucky Strike Lanes, a swank bowling alley-lounge concept created by Jillian’s co-founder and former CEO Steven Foster. Slated to premier in September, the lounge will, in addition to bowling lanes, feature floor-to-ceiling video screens in an atmosphere its creators say combines “vintage elements, modern decor, state of the art technology and unforgettable cuisine.”
Connected to Lucky Strike but with a separate entrance will be Felt, a lounge with pool tables and a menu featuring appetizers, burgers and pizza.
Also opening this fall will be the first ever Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge. The 5,500-square-foot upscale restaurant will feature an eclectic menu and, in addition to Maker’s Mark, bourbons from each of Kentucky’s distilleries. “We are excited to partner with the mayor and with the Cordish Company to add our small piece to America’s newest and best entertainment district,” Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels Jr., said in a recent press release announcing the restaurant, which is hoped to be the first of several in select cities across the country.
4th Street Live! is among several downtown revitalization projects that altogether have resulted in more than $200 million worth of investments. Among them are the Frazier Historical Arms Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, Marriott Residence Inn, Wyndham Hotel, Preston Pointe, Fleur-de-Lis Development, Cobalt-Bravura City Lofts, Park Place Lofts, Waterfront Park Place and Cobalt Marketplace.

Inside Fourth Street Live

Photo by Don Ward

Inside Fourth Street Live.

“It fits in really well. It’s a key element in, number one, getting people to come back downtown,” said Barry Alberts, executive director of the Downtown Development Corp.
Albert said the development’s central location, in the middle of downtown close to hotels, the convention center and housing, is critical.
Although 4th Street Live! is expected to be a boon to overall business in downtown Louisville, Matt Mershon, owner of Deke’s Marketplace Grill, said the development initially may have cost him a few customers. “We’ve noticed a difference here since it opened. We’re seeing a smaller crowd on weeknights but we still get busy late on weekends,” said Mershon, whose restaurant is located just one block away at the corner of Third and Market streets.
Alberts said that’s to be expected with a new development. “Some (businesses) may have initially seen a drop. I think that’s normal. But I think in the long term everybody pretty much agrees that having thousands of people downtown who otherwise would not be there will be good. I think people have been pleasantly surprised and to some extent amazed at the impact of the project so far. The number of people coming to downtown has surpassed everyone’s expectations.”
Cordish is among them. The company announced recently that it has increased its projected attendance from 3.5 million to more than 4.2 million visitors a year.
“Over 300,000 people have visited 4th Street Live! since its initial opening less than one month ago,” said Cordish partner and director of national operations Zed Smith. “There were many sophisticated people who told us prior to starting that this project was impossible, that people would never come to downtown Louisville for entertainment. Well, people are voting with their feet and they are coming in droves. We are absolutely thrilled with the results thus far.”

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