Ah, Greektown, where the street artists, the pedestrians, the waiters on their cigarette breaks, all jockey for sidewalk space without stepping on anybody’s toes or walking into the streets where the cars have braked to a slow crawl.

Not anymore. Greektown has (finally!) widened its sidewalks, making room for spacious dining decks outside its most popular restaurants that include Santorini Estiatorio, Pappy’s Grill, Golden Fleece, Krema, Plaka, Astoria Bakery, Pizza Papalis and Red Smoke Barbeque.

Seating is comfortably distanced apart
Outdoor seating is comfortably distanced apart

The large planters add refreshing color
The large planters add refreshing color

It gets better. For the summer festival series Greektown at Sundown, Greektown has been transformed into a giant party plaza where no cars are allowed on Monroe between Beaubien to St. Antoine. Drivers will have to find another way because dancing in the streets stops for nobody. Neither does Greektown at Sundown’s impressive lineup of food, live music, Cirque street performers or interactive art installations.

The traffic ban begins at 5 p.m. and ends 2 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, until Labor Day. Yanni Dionisopoulos, the General Manager of Golden Fleece, does not see why the fun has to end because the summer does. Golden Fleece has been a Detroit favorite for classic Greek food for decades.

“I see these festivals as an all-year round thing,” Dion said. “Why not? Close down the street for winter and fall events. Bring space heaters out on the decks.”

Dion realized Greektown needed revamping “a long time ago.” He noticed a decline in attendance the last four to five years, and he believes it is related to Greektown’s Greek festivals in the 1980s that have since died out.

“We don’t get the business we used to, besides the baseball games,” Dion said. “And since we are Greek, we wanted to offer the Greek dining experience. We’re going full blast out there.”

Each restaurant’s dining deck was finished about the same time as the others. The uniformity of the wrought-iron fenced decks and large planters took impressive coordination and teamwork between the restaurants, Greektown Preservation Society, Rock Ventures, Opportunity Detroit and Greektown Casino-Hotel.

“It’s been a plan for quite a while, but we’ve been working at it systemically for the last eight months,” Dion said. “We made sure it happened this time instead of just talking about it. We followed up and did everything the city asked so they can’t say we didn’t do it right and cause further delays.”

Reception to Greektown’s new look is positive and proving good for business. Now it is a matter of getting the word out so people know about it and hopefully visit.

“It’s only been a couple of weeks,” Dion said. “Our regulars realize it and they love it. They have started eating outside now. We are getting messages asking about the live music we have out.”

Patio furniture on the dining decks was donated by IKEA, and the three new bike racks along Monroe were donated by Shinola.

Virtuoso was part of the design team. They also fabricated and installed the city’s streetscape that stretches along the Monroe block between Beaubien and St. Antoine.  Greektown visitors will now be able to enjoy patio seating in front of many of their favorite eateries, bars, and retail businesses.

Tasso Teftsis, president of the Greektown Historic Preservation Society said, "Virtuoso's team immediately understood our vision and made a beautiful reveal.
Tasso Teftsis, president of the Greektown Historic Preservation Society said, “Virtuoso’s team immediately understood our vision and made a beautiful reveal.”

The project was a collaboration between the Greektown Historic Preservation Society, Rock Ventures and local businesses.  Virtuoso Design + Build’s team worked to create a modern, welcoming area where visitors could share intimate space, shaded by umbrellas and greenery, that creates a sense of privacy along the bustling street.

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