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The 1970s Federal Grant Program Developer David Cordish Wishes The Government Would Bring Back

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Sitting inside the brand-new $150M flagship Live! by Loews hotel in Arlington that he developed as part of a joint venture with Loews Hotels & Co. and the Texas Rangers, legendary real estate developer David Cordish had his mind on the past. 

The 1970s Federal Grant Program Developer David Cordish Wishes The Government Would Bring Back
The Cordish Cos. CEO David Cordish with Ryan LLC principal Maher Maso

Cordish, CEO and chairman of The Cordish Cos., said he would like to see the return of a program he headed while serving U.S. President Jimmy Carter's administration in the late 1970s and President Ronald Reagan's administration in the '80s.

“What did I do for President Carter and President Reagan is I ran a program called UDAG, Urban Development Action Grant. What I would recommend to this administration or the next administration — Democratic or Republican, it doesn't matter — is that they reinstitute UDAG," Cordish said. 

The 1970s Federal Grant Program Developer David Cordish Wishes The Government Would Bring Back
The $150M Live! by Loews Hotel is now open to convention-goers and guests in Arlington, Texas.

Cordish made this recommendation while speaking at Bisnow's Dallas-Fort Worth Hospitality Boom conference, one of the first events held inside the newly christened Live! by Loews hotel in Arlington, Texas.

The hotel is heir to two powerhouse names in the real estate business, The Cordish Cos.' Live! brand and Loews Hotels & Co.

The development capitalizes on the city of Arlington's reputation as an entertainment mecca with the hotel featuring pristine views of nearby AT&T Stadium and the under-construction Globe Life Field ballpark, future home of the Texas Rangers. 

The 1970s Federal Grant Program Developer David Cordish Wishes The Government Would Bring Back
A floor-to-ceiling television caters to sports-loving guests inside the Live! by Loews hotel.

The hotel and Texas Live! — a $250M dining, entertainment and hospitality complex created by The Cordish Cos. and the Texas Rangers — are examples of how Cordish likes to bring life to existing cities and neighborhoods. 

But when it comes to reviving distressed areas that don't have the amenities or pull of Arlington's entertainment-sports district, Cordish believes solid private-public programs like UDAG work best. 

"UDAG was a federal program where I had a billion dollars a year, $980M, totally discretionary to give to cities around the country to attract development," he said.

The program required $5 in private investment money for every $1 in federal money spent, Cordish said. The money was then given out in soft loans with a baseline requirement the projects create a certain number of jobs and tax dollars for the cities. 

A study completed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on UDAG describes it as a federal initiative launched to stir economic activity in distressed cities through federal subsidies paired with private investments to curtail urban deterioration. 

The program phased out in the late 1980s. 

Dallas Cowboys Stadium
View of AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, from the Live! by Loews hotel in Arlington, Texas.

Cordish said the program functioned as an effective private-public partnership. 

“I wanted to see the playing field leveled for cities and that is what UDAG did," he said. "It started the turnaround in the United States of cities coming back."

"Back when President Reagan was president and Carter was president, most of the cities in the U.S. — 95% of them — were having a very hard time. I would tell any administration, Democrat or Republican, bring me that back. A billion dollars for the whole country, but you're leveraging it 5-to-1, so it's $5B."