The Future of Grand Rapids

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of attention in the Grand Rapids media focused towards this mystery development, and how it’s supposed to change the face of Grand Rapids, and give the city a “mark on the map.” You know, apart from Amway, Alticor, and Gerald R. Ford. And it’s not like people don’t know GR doesn’t exist… Virtually every big and small act has performed at the Van Andel Arena.

While the speculation on this mystery project with “possible national significance” continues, the Grand Rapids landscape continues it’s transformation process as two buildings of high status are being built. And recently, Epsilon had the opportunity to go downtown to view the construction sites of the new JW Marriott tower, and the all-new Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Located across from the Amway Grand Plaza, the new JW Marriott, built by Alticor, promises to be a sleek, modern skyscraper, a sharp contrast from the industrial design of the Amway tower. But that promise won’t become a fully realized reality until 2007. Right now, construction crews are busy digging away, getting ready to lay the foundation for the new local icon.
When it’s complete, the JW Marriott will be 24 stories tall, and will feature 340 glass-enclosed rooms. It will also be connected to a 750-space parking garage on the hotel’s south side, which is right by the Plaza Towers. Alticor will own this hotel, through Amway.
Above you can get another view of the construction area, albeit not a great one. It’s kind of funny looking at pictures of a “complete mess,” but in a few years, this will be a gleaming skyscraper. This is a rare opportunity to get historical photos, something that will truly mean a lot years down the road. (In theory.)
While construction continues on this first-rate hotel, down the road there is another construction crew hard at work. The Grand Rapids Art Museum is leaving it’s old building, in favor of a modern-meets-industrial design, to be built in the heart of Monroe Center.
When the new building is complete, it will have a total of 18,000 square feet of exhibition space. That’s compared to the current 6,000 square feet! It will also have a bigger auditorium, a bigger lobby/reception area, a larger gift shop, and will feature a cafe. It will also have a larger education center, and a small outdoor park, complete with a water wall.
This new art museum will be located right next to Rosa Parks Circle, a local hub for performing arts. And as such, perhaps this is such a fitting location to build an art museum, to establish an “art district.”
Although the “mystery development” is supposed to revolutionize the area, the additions of these two new buildings will certainly breath a new life into this slowly-blossoming city.

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