Funds OK’d for Grand Rapids Public Museum’s riverfront redesign

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Public Museum’s riverfront redesign plan is getting a financial boost.

On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved up to $253,625 to get the $64 million project shovel-ready this year. The funds would support final design work, construction paperwork and project bidding.

The museum’s plan calls for a wave feature on the museum’s north side and a campus designed to fit the look and feel of the grounds at the neighboring Ah-Nab-Awen Park and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. The redesigned green space would include terracing for community gatherings.

To the east, a series of ramps would give visitors of all abilities direct access to the river and the museum’s carousel, which would be available to enjoy even when the museum is closed. New trails bordering the river would connect to Ah-Nab-Awen Park and Grand Valley State University.

New seating overlooking the Grand River near the Blue Bridge could be used as a school group instruction area for the museum, which currently does much of its river education programming on neighboring properties, according to Stephanie Ogren, Ph.D., an aquatic biologist and vice president of science and education for the museum.

The project ties into the yearslong effort to restore the rapids in the Grand River. Steve Heacock, president and CEO of Grand Rapids WhiteWater, said the group plans to engineer the Grand River so the water would be calm and approachable at the museum. The redesigned riverfront would allow children and visitors to reach the riverbank and touch the water.

The riverfront redesign is part of the museum’s larger $64 million expansion plan, which also includes adding a ground floor café, new group entrance and reconfiguring its retail space.

“We’re just getting going here,” said Grand Rapids Public Museum President and CEO Dale Robertson.

Robertson said the expansion is necessary given growing demand. The number of museum visitors jumped from 68,000 in 2008 to 259,000 visitors in 2019, according to Robertson.

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