Rich DeVos left mark on downtown Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — You can’t help but think of Richard DeVos when you visit Grand Rapids.

The downtown area likely wouldn’t be what it is today without the Amway co-founder, who died Thursday at the age of 92.

“Rich DeVos has had an incredible impact, visible impact, on downtown Grand Rapids,” Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, told 24 Hour News 8.

The DeVoses, the Van Andels and Amway spent decades investing in the city they called home. In 1978, they bought the historic Pantlind hotel on Monroe Avenue. At the time, it was an abandoned and boarded-up eyesore. But it was soon transformed into the high-class Amway Grand Plaza.

“When we bought the hotel, things were not really good in this town,” DeVos described the project to 24 Hour News 8 in 2011. “This hotel was not a very good hotel. You would almost be warned to stay away from it.”

DeVos also had a hand in creating the JW Marriott, the DeVos Performance Hall, the DeVos Place convention center and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, among other projects.

“If you look around, you see his fingerprints on a lot of things, almost everything,” Baker said. “And you see his name on some of them, meaning that he made a major financial contribution, his family made a major financial contribution, to that project. And so I would venture to say (downtown) would not look like it does today without Rich DeVos’ leadership and personal investment.”

DeVos also became an advocate of organ donation, helping create the Richard DeVos Heart and Lung Transplant Program at Spectrum Health.

“I think he’s had a lasting impact on the culture of Grand Rapids,” Baker said. “The sense of giving that we have as a community, sense of place that we have as a community. It’s a long-lasting legacy.”

>>App users: Photos of Rich DeVos’ life

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