Three More Tenants Leave the Avenue at Tower City, Zombie-Themed Laser Tag Closer to Reality

[image-1]Three more tenants have packed it in at the Avenue at Tower City, and the downtown mall — owned, since 2016, by Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Detroit — is getting emptier and drearier by the week. The few intrepid souls who catch flicks at the Cleveland Cinemas these days, or who de-board the Rapid Transit at the subterranean station, ascend to the Avenue Shoppes with the grim sensation of having stumbled upon zombie-occupied territory. 

(Or at the very least a zombie-themed paintball or laser tag course.)

Tower Deli closed on Friday, Crain's reported, joining another food operation from the same ownership group, the Lincoln Taphouse, which closed in October. A gentlemen's clothier, Maestro, has moved to a storefront in the theater district, next to the Hanna Theater on E. 14th.

These three closures pile upon several others in the food court and elsewhere. Both the Children's Place, a national chain, and the Sweet Factory, a candy store, have closed. McDonald's is long gone. This summer, we noted the tragic shuttering of Sakkio Japan, a food-court staple. NEXT, a "lifestyle boutique" is reportedly closing soon as well.

In a statement provided to Crain's, Bedrock CEO Jim Ketai said that though plans for the future of the Avenue Shoppes are still being evaluated, "current tenants remain a priority and, as with all of our tenants, we work hard to arrive at lease terms that accommodate their needs to the best of our ability while allowing for flexibility in our future plans."

But allowing for that flexibility meant that Bedrock wouldn't negotiate lower rents for Tower Deli and Lincoln Tap House, one of the restaurant's owners told Crain's, despite months of bad business due to the accumulating vacancies. In the story's most important detail (to us), the quoted owner, Gregory Dabran, said the establishments also never gained new business due to JACK Casino.

"They did a great job keeping that [gaming] business within those four walls," he said.

Other downtown small business owners should take note: After all, another Gilbert-owned venture — the Cleveland Cavaliers — just secured an enormous public subsidy to vastly increase the interior square footage of the Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs play. The profits from that expansion will flow directly to the franchise owner, Gilbert.

New and enhanced dining options are presumed to be part of the renovated Q's package. And while public officials praised the project as a vital engine for downtown economic development, a few wondered whether a bigger, more enticing arena might actually cannibalize the other restaurants and businesses nearby. Might not the new Q also do a great job keeping its business within its four walls? They were assured that this wouldn't be the case.