Renderings of proposed redesign for Calder Plaza

Renderings of a new design for Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.
Renderings of a new design for Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mix some shade trees, tables, chairs, pavilion and splash pad, what do you get? People.

At least that’s the hope of those behind efforts to redesign Calder Plaza.

>>Online: Presentation of master plan for Calder Plaza

“I think we’re going to see it become, again, the heart of the city. That will make me very happy,” said Nancy Mulnix Tweddale.

Mulnix Tweddale was instrumental in making La Grande Vitesse and the plaza where it sits part of the downtown landscape in 1969.

At the time, cities across America were taking part in urban renewal — an effort to rebuild and revitalize cities. While the effort had mixed success, the Calder still stands as bright spot in the effort here in Grand Rapids.

But the nearly four-acre plaza around it doesn’t get much love these days. Except for events like Festival Of The Arts and various other weekend summer time happenings, but it is usually an nearly empty slab of concrete.

Mulnix Tweddale remembers a city worker who made sure plans around the plaza matched the stabile. That was nearly 50 years ago. Now it’s a different story.

“What made me even angrier was looking at the landscaping, and it’s just a mess down there,” Mulnix Tweddale said.

Enter “A Plaza Full of Options,” the code name for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.’s vision for Calder Plaza. After months of gathering public input, the organization unveiled the best of the best ideas with renderings during a forum Thursday.

Along with the renderings, there are photos that feature a before and after look if those ideas become a reality.

On the east side, a grove of trees, some water works and a permanent stage would give people a reason to hang out. Ottawa Avenue is integrated into the plan.

“So that during the day, when traffic needs to flow it will move nicely. But we can shut down the street, use that as an event space,” said Tim Kelly, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc’s Vice President of Planning and Development.

On the west side, retail space could be added at the Monroe level, with a pedestrian bridge taking people from the plaza across Monroe Avenue to DeVos Place.

The cost is expected to run in the millions. Exactly how much and where the money will come from won’t be decided until Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. gets final approval of the plan and cost estimates.

They hope to have all of that settled and break ground sometime in 2018.

“We have the Calder, which is kind of the icon for Grand Rapids. We want to give that stabile, that kind of icon for the city, its proper home.” Kelly said. “We think this will have benefits beyond its esthetics. It will be a new program, new park space for the community.”

And for those who were there when it all began, the plans provide a new lease on life for the space around the downtown icon.

“I think they’re great,” said Mulnix Tweddale. “I think they humanize the place. They make it so warm, and a place to go.”