Horseshoe Casino Cleveland's new welcome center ready to open after a few bumps along the way

CLEVELAND - It can be said that a parking garage is simply, from deck to deck, one long and winding road. For the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland's new garage and welcome center that's a heading that applies for more than one reason.

The effort to build the valet center along Ontario Street was one filled with twists, turns and occasional setbacks.

The facility, which will be named the Collection Auto Group Centre when it opens with the casino on May 14, features an additional 340 parking spots and a gift shop with more amenities on the way.

Construction first hit a snag last May when the city's Landmark Commission debated whether to allow the casino to tear down the Columbia Building at East 2nd Street and Prospect.

Built in 1908, the Columbia was the city's first concrete reinforced building. The commission took several weeks to study the matter and held two public hearings before finally signing off on its demolition and work began in July.

Then in December, work briefly came to a stop after a roughly 60-foot by 60-foot section of decking collapsed as new concrete was being poured, no workers were hurt.

Before long, work was under way and when the Ohio Casino Control Commission delayed the casino's opening from March to May it was clear the garage and casino could share the spotlight.

"Whenever you're building in the heart of an urban center, it's not as easy," said Rock Gaming Principal Len Komoroski. "It would have been a lot easier to have this in a suburban setting, in a rural setting, get a flat patch of land, but this is about live work and play 24/7 downtown."

And that is why he said so much of their plans have been a work in progress, written more in pencil than ink. You'll remember the original plans called for a 170-foot pedestrian bridge over the intersection of Prospect and Ontario, connecting the welcome center with the casino's second floor in the Higbee Building.

Those plans had to be put on hold though after the U.S. National Park Service ruled the walkway would impact the Higbee Building's ability to receive historic tax credits.

"That's something we're looking at long term," said Komoroski. "We're reviewing our options, but it's something we're hoping for at some point in the future."

The walkway may be one obstacle going forward, but another is the fact that the welcome center can be compared to a million-dollar smile with a missing tooth. It's built around the historic yet dilapidated Stanley Block Building, which fronts Ontario Street.

A Cleveland Housing Court judge recently ordered the owners of the building to either fix it up or tear it down. Rock Ohio Caesars is part owner of the building and reportedly would like to see it razed.

Komoroski for his part said the first priority is safety.

"Our concern has always been about safety of the millions of people who will be coming downtown and been part of this," he said. "Right now it's in the hands of the city as far as that's concerned."

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