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DeVos Place (DeVos Place Convention Center)
DeVos Place is a huge 10.5-acre multipurpose exhibition space and convention center squeezed between the river and Monroe Avenue NW on 13 acres in the heart of Grand Rapids. The sweeping wave-like roofline, current-like patterns in the terrazzo floor, and the dam-like wall over which the Secchia Gallery's clear roof breaks and cascades mimic the movement of the river. From the Riverview Overlook are views of the river, the Gerald R. Ford Museum ( KT29), and the Van Andel Museum Center (1994).
At the turn-of-the-twenty-first century the earlier three buildings of the Grand Center—Welsh Auditorium, the large Grand Hall exhibition space, and the 2,500-seat DeVos (Music) Hall—seemed deficient. The Grand Action Committee, an economic development group, sought to build a world-class convention center with an economic impact on western Michigan. Special legislation created the Grand Rapids–Kent County Convention/Arena Authority (CAA); CAA owns DeVos Place. DeVos Place is the largest public building project ever undertaken in Grand Rapids. State and local governments and private-sector groups funded the project. Richard DeVos, a founder in 1959 of Amway Corporation, and his wife, Helen, made a major gift.
To make way for DeVos Place all but the front facade and lobby of the monumental Public Works Administration (PWA) Moderne George W. Welsh Civic Auditorium, rehabilitated in 1983–1985, was demolished. The facade and lobby of this historic building were incorporated as the grand entrance to the 40,000-square-foot Steelcase Ballroom. Kasota limestone quarried in southern Minnesota clads some of the building's exterior walls in pale yellowish-white reminiscent of the cream-colored brick found in many older buildings in western Michigan.
DeVos Place encompasses more than 1 million square feet. The exhibition hall, an expansive column-free space of 162,000 square feet, is served by twelve enclosed direct-access loading docks. The Secchia Gallery, with its seventy-five-foot-high glass roof and sweeping steel ribs supporting the glass enclosure, links and divides the main exhibition hall from meeting and banquet rooms. An underground garage offers parking for three hundred vehicles.
The Grand Rapids Press for November 30, 2003, stated that DeVos Place combines “high design with Midwestern practicality.” Optimism that DeVos Place would bring conventions, people, and dollars to Grand Rapids permeated the opening on February 1, 2005.
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