Grand Rapids Public Museum designs $64M expansion

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Among the current exhibits in the Grand Rapids Public Museum is a DeLorean, all decked out as the time machine from the movie “Back to the Future.”

It seems rather fitting as the museum, which takes visitors back in time, is now looking toward the future.

The museum on the Grand River at Pearl Street is planning a $64 million expansion. It would be the first since it was moved there in 1994.

Some of the highlights include a four-story tower on the south end with a café and artifact labs for students, along with more room for exhibits.

It would also feature greater access to the Grand River as the city works to restore the rapids.

“You’ll see increased accessibility, connections to trail systems happening throughout the museum’s grounds, more spaces for respite, community gathering spaces as well,” museum spokeswoman Kate Kocienski said.

Museum officials said the expansion is needed because the number of visitors has grown — from 68,000 in 2008 to nearly 260,000 in 2019.

“Strong cultural assets in the city are what bring people to live and stay and work and play in a city and in a region, and we’re really happy to be one of those spots that’s so key to Grand Rapids,” Kocienski said.

Candace Matthews visited the museum on Friday from Ada for a summer field trip with her granddaughter and niece.

“Today is our first field trip and this is what we selected to come to,” Matthews said. “It’s incredible for a city to have this. When you think of big cities and what they have, like Chicago and going to the Shedd or something like that, we need something that big and that grand here as well, so this is fabulous.

“I’ve seen so many more exhibits today than I’ve ever seen here and I think that the addition would add even more to it.”

Museum officials said they have worked with the community on ideas for the expansion. They are also working on the plan with the city, which owns the building.

They plan to use public and private funds.

“Raising funds is always a challenging but we feel like we have a really strong product,” Kocienski said.

Museum officials expect to start construction in 2023.

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