Grand Rapids Art Museum gets door prizes


The Grand Rapids Art Museum is the first newly constructed LEED Gold certified art museum in the world. Photo via

Members of the Downtown Development Authority agreed recently to a funding request made by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, but not through the program the organization’s officials had requested.

GRAM Development Director Mary Panek explained the museum, at 101 Monroe Center just east of Rosa Parks Circle, wants to add two entrances off Monroe Center to its café and store. Panek said the new entrances would help strengthen the store’s retail visibility. It would also make it easier to let shoppers know they can enter the store without having to pay the museum’s admission fee.

The doorways project would cost about $55,000. The museum has applied for a grant from the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs that would cover almost half of the expense, and asked the DDA for $13,500 from its Building Reuse program. But that program is only for older buildings and the museum opened in 2007, and usually is reserved for commercial entities, not nonprofits.

Still, the DDA unanimously decided to meet the funding request, but the money will come from its non-tax fund, which largely gets its revenue from parking lots the board owns.

On top of that, the DDA has a history of supporting nonprofits in the district.

“Local nonprofits, like ArtPrize, have benefitted from the DDA,” said Eric Pratt, DDA planner.

In fact, GRAM benefitted from the DDA when it was located in the former Federal Building on Ionia Avenue NW. In 2005, the DDA agreed to donate the museum’s current site to the organization and give up the first claim on the property to LaSalle Bank if the project wasn’t completed or went into foreclosure. Seven years ago, the site was appraised at $2.5 million.

“This is a gesture to support activity and to get the ball rolling,” said DDA Chairman Brian Harris of the board’s funding to GRAM, which has the only retail outlet on the south side of that block. “This also ties back to our Framework Plan. It’s a slam dunk.”

There were three other slam dunks the DDA pulled off at the meeting.

Board members awarded Vue Design a retail improvement grant and a signage grant for its new storefront at 150 E. Fulton St., known as the Peacock Building. The custom design bridal shop is moving from 40 Monroe Center NW, having outgrown that location, and is spending $21,100 to renovate its new space. The grants are worth a total of $10,000.

Shannon Gales owns Vue Design, which she began in her home before moving to MoDiv. She isn’t a stranger to receiving grants. Gales picked up a $5,000 grant from Start Garden and that was followed by a $20,000 grant, also from Rick DeVos’ funding mechanism for new businesses.

“Her business has multiplied incredibly in less than a year at MoDiv,” said Anne Marie Bessette of the DDA.

The DDA also awarded Two Beards Deli a grant of $1,775 for signs through the board’s commercial signage program. Scott and Suzanne Schulz own the restaurant, which will open soon at 38 Commerce Ave. SW.

The DDA also gave a $2,000 signage grant to the new Grand Rapids Brewing Co. that Mark and Michele Sellers are reviving at the corner of Ionia Avenue SW and Fulton Street. The couple is locating their business in the storefronts of 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW, known as the Hawkins and Gunn buildings, which are being restored by 616 Development.

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