The Rapidian

Monument and Veterans Memorial Park to receive facelift

Two historic parks honoring Grand Rapids' fallen are undergoing transformation in a $3 million dollar redesign.
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The Evolution of Monument Park

 

Information Provided by The City of Grand Rapids

 

1843: The Village of Grand Rapids establishes "Triangular Park." This is the first city park.

1864: A committee is assembled to raise money for a soldier’s monument.

1884: Grand Rapids schedules Triangular Park to receive a monument and grants permission for construction on a monumental fountain.

1885: Civil War Monument placed in Triangular Park. This is the first Civil War monument that honors both women and men. It is also the first to contain a fountain.

1898: A petition is started by local businesses to reduce the size of Triangular Park or to remove it to expand neighboring streets. The city council approves reducing size of park. Triangular Park is renamed to Monument Park.

1912: The United States Weather Bureau installs an automatic weather station in Monument Park.

1921: The weather station in Monument Park is removed at the request of the Grand Army of the Republic.

1928: Division Street is widened and the drinking fountain is removed from Monument Park to accommodate street space.

1948: The Soldier’s Monument is repainted grey.

1953: The Women’s Relief Corps petitions to have the Soldier’s Monument painted blue, for "the boys in blue." The Soldier's Monument is repainted blue, but was considered too “blue-grey.” The monument is sandblasted and left naturally grey.

1959: The City of Grand Rapids renovates Monument Park. Redesign includes placing a circular path around the monument, as well as another path from the east angle to the monument. The neighboring streets are lowered and retaining walls are added. The monument is again repainted blue.

1979: Monument Park is redesigned to widen Fulton and Division. Part of Monroe Street is converted into a plaza, and the Soldier's Monument is moved 60 feet north.

2003: The Soldier's Monument undergoes restoration as the monument had begun to tilt. The seat wall, sidewalk and steps receive repair.

 

/City of Grand Rapids

“People are like, hey, well – this just happened overnight. Well, it didn’t happen overnight,” says Steve Faber of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. “That park has been on the books for nearly a decade. It’s just that the funding and financing has finally become available.”

Construction is slated to complete by November 15.

“Essentially both spaces were tired and underused,” says Chris Reader, co-chair of the Monument and Veterans Memorial Park Steering Committee “We worked to ensure that the end result would create great spaces for citizens, while respecting the history of the parks and enhancing their purpose of honoring our military veterans.”

A portion of the funding for the $3 million dollar project, which includes redesigning Veteran’s Memorial Park in the spring of 2014, is provided by developers through a brownfield grant.

“Basically when a developer does a project where they are reclaiming an old building, there are certain incentives that developers can apply for,” says Faber. “They can dedicate that tax increment towards park projects.”

Renovation is also underway on two facing buildings. 616 Development is renovating the Kendall Building at 16 Monroe Center, which faces the north side of Memorial Park. The structure previously known as the Junior Achievement Building is being rehabilitated by Locus Development at 4 East Fulton, facing the south side.

“If you’ve lived here for a while, you think of these spaces as very static,” says Faber. ”The reality is that the public spaces we think of as very static have gone through transformation multiple times based on who lived in Grand Rapids and what their priorities are.”

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