The Rapidian

GoSite Pop Up exceeds expectations in number, reach of visitors

There are two more weeks left in the Pop Up introductory phase, in which the public encouraged to stop in and add comments and suggestions.
GOSite pushpin map

GOSite pushpin map /Eric Tank

Underwriting support from:

Friday Free Bites

This Friday, September 5, the featured restaurants are Bar Divani and The Cottage Bar.

A visitor from Kenya with GoSite staff member Lysandra French

A visitor from Kenya with GoSite staff member Lysandra French /Courtesy of GoSite

GR Riddle Brochures

GR Riddle Brochures /Courtesy of GoSite

While the GoSite welcome center and information sharing space has benefitted from numerous community meetings and months of research during the planning stage, nothing is quite as valuable as opening up the process for greater public participation and feedback.

On July 31, the GoSite Pop Up introductory space opened for a seven week run, with limited hours Thursdays through Saturdays. Once on its permanent schedule, the GoSite will be open seven days a week. The Pop Up allows for hands on interaction with pilot programs and a chance to view design plans before finalizing the reconstruction and launch.

The response has exceeded expectations, with over 1600 guests in the first 15 days alone. The visitors are arriving from near and far, from Grand Rapids' diverse neighborhood districts to the far reaches of the globe. The Certified Tourism Ambassadors who staff the GoSite have also welcomed new residents to the area, helping them become familiar with their adopted hometown, and the past two weeks also witnessed a large influx of college students stopping by. One glance at the pushpin map illustrates the vast geographic representation of visitors.

The feedback from people visiting the GoSite Pop Up is extremely thoughtful and useful. These suggestions are a key component in making the GoSite the best it can be for Grand Rapids and West Michigan. Two weekends remain in the Pop Up phase. Everyone is encouraged to stop in, explore the designs and pilot programming, read the numerous comments left by hundreds of others, and add your own suggestions to the plan. This helps ensure the welcome center and information sharing space is built correctly, with true representation for all.

Through GoSite coalition partners Experience Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., maps of the downtown and surrounding areas are available and have proven to be a great resource for travelers and newcomers. Both visitors and those more familiar with the area enjoy discovering new ideas via GRCityTwist.com and by following the GoSite Social Circle hosts on twitter (auditions for additional hosts are available). Those ready to take on a brainteaser with a chance to win great prizes find the GR Riddle entertaining.

It will probably come as no surprise that one of the most popular programs is Friday Free Bites, where area restaurants offer samplings from their menus to GoSte visitors Fridays at 11:30 a.m. This Friday, September 5, the featured restaurants are Bar Divani and The Cottage Bar. Downtown workers and lunchtime visitors have been introduced to a number of great restaurants through this program. Past participants included Anna's House, Propaganda Doughnuts, Chez Olga, Twisted Rooster, Harmony Brewing Company, CitySen Lounge and Malamiah Juice Bar.

The Thursday Evening Cultural Mix program has featured spoken word artists from LINC Gallery, and walking tours provided by members of the Grand Rapids Historical Society and Tour GR – one tour included a surprise visit through the Morton House as Site:Lab prepares the building for ArtPrize. With so many wonderful arts and cultural options to collaborate with in Grand Rapids, this program has much room to expand. An encore walking tour of historic downtown is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 5.

Above all though, it's the human connection that really has shown the value of bringing the GoSite project to life. The warm conversations and true feeling of community is priceless, and it seems as if new friends are made with each person that passes through the door.

Lysandra French is one of the staff members at the GoSite Pop Up, and she sums up her reasons for working on the project.

"From talking with people I've met through the Pop Up, the GoSite is imperative to the growth of Grand Rapids and will serve an immediate need,” says French, who was an early supporter of the project in part because of personal history and experience moving in to the area. “Over the 23 years I’ve been [in Grand Rapids], it took me 15 of those years through volunteering, working, etc. to see and understand just how great and diverse this city really is. The GoSite bridges that gap and puts people in touch with not just resources but real people, and it’s situated in a place that is accessible to everyone...walk, bus, bike, car, and online...the GoSite can and will be your go to place.”

Stop in to the Pop Up, follow GoSite GR on Facebook and Twitter, and visit GoSiteGR.org to be a part of this community-building project in Grand Rapids.

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