Reporting Vickie Thomas
DETROIT (WWJ) - Renovations to Cobo Center in downtown Detroit aren’t scheduled to be complete until January of 2015, but officials have taken the wraps off of the improvements to date.
Over the weekend, officials unveiled the results of phase two of the nearly $280 million renovation project, which includes the new Grand River Ballroom and a three-story glass atrium.
Juliette Okotie-Eboh, member of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, said visitors won’t believe their eyes when they see the center’s new improvements.
“Think of that old arena that had been mothballed all those years and now it’s going to be a showcase for events,” she said.
And attendees like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson reacted just the way Okotie-Eboh imagined.
“Where we’re standing right now, you come in off the water and nobody wanted to have their event down here because it was in the basement. Now, we have a three floor atrium, all glass. You can see the river, you can see the sunlight, people are going to like this atrium the best I think,” he said.
Patterson said the center’s new look is already bringing new business downtown.
“It’s going to bring in a lot of visitors. I was talking to one of the managers here and they’ve already logged in 57 new shows and they think they’ll do another 57, so they’ll have 114 by the end of the year,” he said.
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said the investment for renovations is one that will continue to pay off as the years go on.
“What would any other company do? It’s sort of like our trademark, because we’re saving the Auto Show. What would Coke do, what would Pepsi do to, you know, save their brand? And that’s really what Cobo does for the Auto Show,” he said.
Okotie-Eboh said the renovation process has been surprisingly easy, considering the five-member authority has to vote unanimously on every item.
“There hasn’t been an issue that’s hit the table that we haven’t agreed on and moved forward. It’s been a wonderful experience, no wrangling at all,” she said.
But while many attendees enjoyed the unveiling party, some elected officials, such as Detroit City Councilwoman Brenda Jones, were left wondering why they weren’t on the guest list.
“I think it’s truly disrespectful,” she said. “It’s just among the other things that has happened that’s disrespectful to the citizens of this city and also to the elected officials whom the citizens voted for to represent them.”
Officials with COBO said the weekend party and ribbon cutting was for members of the media, as well as clients and potential clients. Council members will be invited to tour the renovations next month, officials said.
WATCH: Cobo Center Renovation & Expansion Fly-Through