Construction starts to fix up Rosa Parks Circle

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s Grand Rapids’ town square: a place where we express our discontent and celebrate each other. But Rosa Parks Circle downtown has seen better days.

“We’re at this important point now where we can provide some real restoration to this place that is in desperate need of it,” Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Director David Marquardt said Thursday.

Dedicated nearly 20 years ago, The Ecliptic — the work created by artist Maya Lin that shapes Rosa Parks Circle as we know it — is showing its age. The concrete steps that double as seats are crumbling. The metal facade on the restroom building is dented.

It’s all wear and tear. The materials weren’t designed to withstand the yearly use. Original plans called for more durable materials, like granite instead of concrete slabs along The Ecliptic, but they were “value engineered” out. The translation: they were cut to save costs.

“So we’re coming back in, really restoring some of those original components that were removed from the project at the outset.” Marquardt said, adding the need for a facelift also shows just how important the park has become. “We’re upwards of 700,000-plus on an annual basis. That is more than anybody had ever anticipated at the outset of this project.”

The total cost of the upgrades are estimated at just under $3 million. About $700,000 will come from the City of Grand Rapids dedicated parks millage. Another $550,000 will come from the Downtown Development Authority. The remainder will come from philanthropic and private donations through The Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle Conservancy.

“Whether it’s $5 or $10 or more, anything is welcome,” the Conservancy’s Tripp Frey said.

The park will remain closed until its rededication planned for around the 2oth anniversary in September.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has worked with groups that usually gather at the circle to find other venues.

“Ah-Nab-Awen Park right across the river. We’ve got the Calder Plaza right below City Hall,” Marquardt said.

Improvements will include work on the stage and the restrooms. There will also be a new bus shelter, benches and signs.

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