Arts & Entertainment, Construction, and Travel & Tourism

Meijer Gardens reveals $115M expansion plan

March 23, 2017
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Meijer Gardens Padnos Families Rooftop Sculpture Garden partial rendering
A partial rendering of the Padnos Families Rooftop Sculpture Garden. Courtesy Meijer Gardens

After a year of study with a New York-based architectural firm, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park revealed this morning the details of a $115-million expansion plan.

Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids said today it has raised $102 million of a $115-million capital campaign to build three new buildings totaling 90,000 square feet, renovate and expand the Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater, re-do and expand parking, add an outdoor picnic pavilion, widen corridors inside the existing building and streamline the flow of guests and traffic.

Construction is scheduled to begin in September and wrap up in 2021.

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners is collaborating with Grand Rapids-based Progressive AE on the project’s architecture.

Owen-Ames-Kimball is the project’s contractor.

David Hooker, Meijer Gardens president and CEO, said the expansion is needed because of continued visitor and membership growth, congested and inconveniently designed parking lots and the need for more space for educational programs, horticultural exhibits and art collections.

“Our focus from the beginning has been to provide an exceptional experience for our members and guests, and we’re thrilled that we have the opportunity to build on our success with this new endeavor,” Hooker said.

“At its very essence, Meijer Gardens is a place of joy — and a legacy of love shared by Fred and Lena Meijer, the Meijer family and thousands of team members, volunteers and donors who have created a special place.”

Hooker said Meijer Gardens, at 1000 E. Beltline Ave. NE, is not purchasing land for the expansion but, rather, re-purposing its 158-acre space.

Its current building footprint is 140,000 square feet, and the expansion will bring the total up to 230,000 square feet.

Hooker said the organization does not disclose the names of donors, but there have been many so far.

“We are sincerely grateful for the extraordinarily generous support of the Meijer family and so many others in creating a cultural institution that has served over 10.4-million people,” he said.

Project details

A new 60,000-square-foot, LEED-certified Welcome Center

Along with a new plaza, the center will bridge the space between the main entrance and the outdoor amphitheater.

A new 20,000-square-foot, LEED-certified Covenant Learning Center

“It’s a totally new area connected to our current facility, and it will be a six-classroom building, plus an interactive education area with its own restroom and storage area,” Hooker said.

Educational offerings will include horticulture, sculpture and photography.

A new Peter C. and Emajean Cook Transportation Center

“That will be to transport people within the park,” Hooker said. “Our main campus is 158 acres and spread out...It’s walkable, but a lot of people like to ride, and we have a tram system. Our ability to transport people and move around needs to improve. The new tram system will allow the trams to park under cover and will have restrooms and offices for staff.”

Expanded and upgraded Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater

The theater currently seats 1,900. The new capacity was not disclosed.

A new Sculpture Garden Entry Plaza

“The main entrance and the amphitheater are far apart and architecturally different,” Hooker said. “There will be a large plaza that connects these two together, and by virtue of the Welcome Center, they will be closer together.”

A re-imagined and expanded BISSELL Inc. Scenic Corridor

“Right now, the scenic corridor is a large corridor where everybody passes through heading to the conservatories, sculpture park and children’s garden,” Hooker said. “It will be widened to accommodate more people to allow us to better host our annual horticultural exhibitions.”

A new Outdoor Picnic Pavilion

“It will be adjacent to the Frederik Meijer Gardens amphitheater,” Hooker said.

A new Padnos Families Rooftop Sculpture Garden

“It’s going to be on the roof of the Covenant Learning Center,” Hooker said.

Expanded and accessible parking and urban gardens

Parking has “grown piecemeal over the last 22 years,” Hooker said. “We have Lot A, B, C, D, added over time and fit in as we could. It’s served us pretty well, but as we’ve grown, we need more parking. So we’re completely destroying the current parking and designing it all as one big space. It will be much easier to navigate for our guests and will have extra parking and more parking closer to the building. We will retain the current look with rain gardens and eco-friendly drainage, etc.”

Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners

The firm, founded in 1986, is well-known for its design of the iconic Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and, most recently, was chosen to design the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

Meijer Gardens

Currently host to an exhibition by Ai Weiwei, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park serves more than 700,000 visitors annually.

Meijer Gardens, founded in 1995, was recently ranked among the top 100 most-visited art museums worldwide by Art Newspaper, a leading publication on global art news.

The 158-acre main campus features Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory, one of the largest interactive children’s gardens in the country, arid and Victorian gardens with bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin, a carnivorous plant house, outdoor gardens and a 1,900-seat outdoor amphitheater, featuring an eclectic mix of internationally touring musicians every summer.

In 2015, Meijer Gardens added the eight-acre Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden to its repertoire of horticultural features. 

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