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Allan

Greektown Casino to build new Parking Garage

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You've got to love Detroit. Another parking garage?! Give me a break! I won't park in it...at least not when I can park for free after 5 PM next to that old meat packing plant on Shelby Street. People in this city are so lazy. Heaven forbid that they can't park directly in front of their final destination! Detroiters must freak out when they go to any other major city and have to walk a couple of blocks....

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Len Cranston, 64, waits for his car at Greektown Casino. Lack of convenient parking creates a valet service backlog.

Greektown bets on more parking

CEO says its plan for a 650-car garage is vital for a bigger slice of the casino market.

By Joel J. Smith / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- When Greektown Casino opened five years ago, its managers envisioned customers testing their luck, then flowing out to enjoy the festive downtown district's restaurants, bakeries and shops.

So they didn't worry that the casino lacked convenient parking, especially compared to the other two Detroit gambling houses.

That turned out to be a bad play.

Greektown Casino executives now acknowledge parking issues have cost it tens of millions of dollars in revenue yearly. They found out gamblers mostly want close, convenient parking that allows them to leave their jackets in the car and get to the tables and slot machines quickly.

"Parking is a problem," said Marvin Beatty, Greektown's interim CEO. "What Greektown did -- probably to its own detriment -- was to build a temporary urban casino that did provide a stimulus to the community. We did that, apparently at our own peril, and have a situation that hasn't worked to our benefit."

The new plan: The casino is asking for city approval to build a $10 million parking garage for valet services a half block from the casino.

"We can't afford to lose more market share and if parking continues to be the attributor, we have to do something about it right now," Beatty said.

In 2004, Greektown had $319.9 million in revenue compared with $436.1 million for MotorCity Casino and $433.3 million at MGM Grand Detroit.

MGM and MotorCity both have about 3,000 indoor parking spaces connected directly to their casinos.

MGM and MotorCity also are along the Lodge Freeway with easy parking access and generally less-congested streets.

Greektown averages about 12,000 customers a day and has about 4,550 parking spaces. But those spots are scattered throughout the area and none is adjacent or connected directly to the casino.

When Annette Taylor visits Greektown, the senior citizen uses the valet parking service because she finds the gambling hall's parking facilities are beyond walking distance. But that means waiting up to 30 minutes for her car to be retrieved.

"They really need more nearby parking," said Taylor, a Detroit resident who visits the casino at least once a month. "I occasionally go to the other casinos and the parking is much better."

Jacob L. Miklojcik, president of Lansing-based Michigan Consultants, which does casino advisory work, said Greektown can never come close to attracting a third of the Detroit gambling business with its parking situation. In December 2004, Greektown revenue accounted for 25.7 percent of the total earned by the three Detroit casinos.

Greektown Casino wants to build a 650-car parking garage at the corner of Beaubien and East Fort streets, Beatty said. The casino's valet service will use the structure to park cars instead of taking them to a half-dozen other lots scattered throughout the Greektown area. "Right now our valet drivers have to face the urban traffic problems with congestion, traffic lights and weather-related slowdowns," Beatty said. "A new garage doesn't eliminate all those problems, but it will shorten the time to get to a car."

Greektown, like Detroit's other casinos, is awaiting a court decision that would permit construction of permanent casino/hotel/entertainment centers on other property. The earliest a permanent casino facility could open would be three years.

Is a $10 million parking garage a good investment if Greektown moves in three years?

"It's absolutely worth it because we can provide better service to our customers," Beatty said. "Without question, we can improve our revenue if we provide better parking."

Greektown was the last of the three casinos to open in Detroit. The gambling public was already used to the connected parking garages at MGM and MotorCity.

"In this market, convenient parking at a casino has been defined as a boxed-in parking garage attached to the property," said Roger Martin, a Greektown spokesman. "We don't have that and it is a competitive disadvantage to us."

Despite the parking problems, Greektown still has loyal customers.

Sue Reininger of Harrison Township visits the casino at least once a month and walks a little more than a city block to the gambling hall.

"We don't mind the walk," Reininger said. "But an attached garage certainly would be more convenient."

You can reach Joel J. Smith at (313) 222-2556 or [email protected]

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Mary Cohill, wait for their car. Greektown operators say they neglected the need for convenient parking.

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Well, the least they could do is throw the hotel on top and make this their permanent location. Fair trade for the parking ramp.

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Is anything being torn down for this garage or is it taking the place of a surface parking lot? I agree, it would make sense to just turn it into a permanent casino and construct a hotel on top of the parking garage, because the casino sits in a killer location, imo. Also, I may have overlooked it in the article, will there be retail space, at street level? If so, the parking garage might not be so bad.

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I think it's a surface lot right now. I'll have to double check when I'm downtown tomorrow & Saturday.

The article does not say that there will be ground floor retail, so I don't really know. I hope it does have ground floor retail. Building a ramp without retail is a mistake, IMO.

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