Greektown, Detroit Michigan
L E S S O N S …
I’ve been tracking the Greektown Casino project for years and have noted some lessons to be learned from what I’ve observed. The initial building, which was designed by Steelman Partners in 1998 and opened in 2000, by any standards, was a huge success; netting a 200% ROI with $85 million in profit for the first year and making its gaming license one of the most valuable on the planet.
So, how did it go from such a viable and profitable venture to the declaration of bankruptcy in such a short amount of time? Bad Design, Bad decisions…
The decision was made by Steelman Partners to keep the design consistent with its surroundings, in order to enhance the neighborhood around it. The designers of Phase 2 changed that philosophy and went with a different approach. They opted to create a building that stands out in a crowd, and they accomplished that, but not in a positive way. The bright blue building design can be perceived as loud and aesthetically disruptive.
In a press release issued in February 2009, Bill Williams, vice president of guest services stated, “We believe that this new property will help enhance not only Greektown Casino, but the city of Detroit as well.” As the entire county faces economic struggles, the city of Detroit is suffering the worst economy since the Great Depression – and save the city, this project did not!
SO WHAT CAN BE LEARNED?
- Entertainment needs to respect its surroundings – especially in a historic district like Greektown.
- To design a hotel that is disconnected from the casino and other tandem activities is disjointed and can affect the natural flow of a design.
- To spend hundreds of million dollars on a ”tag on“ addition to a temporary casino does not often create the profit center needed for that type of investment to be realized.
- Architectural and planning decisions can have a significant impact on the success or failure of a project…
- An Entertainment architect needs to design a building to be an attraction for the majority of its potential patrons.
- Just spending large amounts of money on a project in the best neighborhood in Detroit does not necessarily mean that it will be able to compete with the current competition. Special care should be taken regarding how the investment is used and how the overall design co-exists with its surroundings.
Sometimes I do not know what motivates owners to choose an Architect. In Greektown’s example, I would not have made the decision to design a Miami style structure in that neighborhood / skyline of the historic city of Detroit.