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GOSite will soon greet visitors downtown

November 14, 2014
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GOSite is nearing its final phase: On Nov. 20, plans for the “21st century Grand Rapids welcome center” will be made public.

GOSite will serve as a platform for information on things to see and do in Grand Rapids.

Designvox in East Grand Rapids developed the final concept in conjunction with the GOSite Advisory Council and Diversity Committee, following a seven-week pilot program held during the summer that asked for community feedback. More than 3,000 pieces of feedback were collected.

The pilot program consisted of a popup site at Grand Rapids Art Museum, where the future GOSite will be housed. Certified tourism ambassadors staffed the site. The CTA program is overseen by Experience Grand Rapids, training frontline staff at hotels, restaurants and other hospitality-focused downtown businesses on how to provide a great experience and customer service to visitors.

Kerri VanderHoff, GOSite project director, said the popup site was enlightening and impacted some of the original concept ideas.

VanderHoff said one of the most important things learned from the pilot program was just how important face-to-face interaction is.

“The human connection we found … is by far the value of the GOSite space,” she said. “People wanted to talk to a human being and ask questions.”

She noted one woman who had recently moved to town stopped in after seeing a Blues on the Mall concert.

“She was interested in finding out what that was, getting her bearings in the neighborhood,” VanderHoff said. “That started a conversation about things she liked to do back where she was from, and how she could match that with Grand Rapids.”

VanderHoff said another visitor was from Denmark and traveling from Detroit to Traverse City with a six-hour delay in Grand Rapids.

“She came in and spent time asking questions,” VanderHoff said. “I sent her on a short walking tour, and she made a point to come back in afterward and find me, and said, ‘I want to thank you. Grand Rapids would not have been the same city without you here.’”

Yet another of VanderHoff’s favorite encounters was with a group of downtown workers who stopped in for the Friday Free Bites, a program GOSite was testing that offers free food samples from area restaurants as a way to introduce people to places they might not have been. That Friday, Chez Olga was visiting GOSite.

“Some people from the area had never heard of it, so they were introduced to a new place in town,” she said

It’s stories like those that excite VanderHoff most about the future of GOSite.

“I have to tell you, those connections meant everything,” she said.

After the GOSite concept is announced this month, the site will begin to undergo a minor transformation focused on updating it to support technology and other needs.

VanderHoff said she expects GOSite to officially open sometime next spring.

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