In 1985, developers Cordish Embry & Associates transformed several historic buildings along Monroe Street in Greektown into an enclosed mall. The buildings were originally owned by old Traugott Schmidt, who used them as a fur processing center back in the day. Inspired by Faneuil Hall in Boston, the developers created a festival market place. The five-story, exposed-brick structure contained five open levels filled with unique retail stores, psychics, souvenir shops and The Fudgery. The atrium was accented with brass and covered with an enormous glass roof.
With fairy lights and street artists, the Greektown neighborhood of the 1990s was all about atmosphere, and the average visitor -- age 34, income more than $40,000 a year -– soaked it up. Some of the businesses along Monroe Street during this period included Pegasus Restaurant, The Hellas, The New Parthenon, Astoria Pastry, Aegean Ice Cream, Simeon Bakery, Athens Bar, The Golden Fleece, The Athens Bakery, The Laikon Café and The Olympia. Then, as is now, St. Mary’s Catholic Church anchored the neighborhood.
Michigan voters gave the go ahead for three casinos to be built in downtown Detroit in 1996. Out of eleven applicants (including seven companies that operated casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey), Greektown Casino, L.L.C. emerged as one of the three finalists. Despite the involvement of Greektown merchants, however, the mayor later announced his plan that all three casinos to be clustered at the city’s riverfront. After several obstacles and delays, however, the city eventually agreed to temporary structures located throughout the city, thus paving the way for Greektown Casino to actually be located in Greektown – in the former Trapper’s Alley property to be exact.
While more political wrangling followed, the city eventually gave up on the riverfront idea in favor of getting the permanent casino hotels up and running in time for the 2006 Super Bowl. The city agreed to amend the original development agreements and allow the three casinos to build smaller, permanent hotel facilities at or near their temporary locations.