Monument Park well on the way to becoming a welcoming respite in the heart of Grand Rapids

One would think that the renovation of a tiny triangle of greenspace would be a breeze, but the redesign and rebuilding of Monument Park in downtown Grand Rapids has been a multi-year process, involving planners, citizens, military veterans, landscape designers, utility companies, and scads of others.

Monument Park, bordered by Monroe Center Avenue NW pedestrian walkway, Fulton St., and Division Avenue, is home to a 25-ft.-high monument honoring Civil War veterans. The park has changed shape and size over the decades, and, off and on, has been a greenspace with no trees and a greenspace with trees. In recent years, a retaining wall created a raised barrier, which made it difficult for pedestrians to step up into the park and impossible for people in wheelchairs or on bikes to access it.

Tree removal, leveling the park to sidewalk level, and extensively rebuilding the underground utilities and the outdated coal storage areaways that run under the park is complete, and the new base for the monument and fountain is in place.

Plans to relocate the monument and the fountain that surrounds it to a central viewing area in the park will make the monument more visible and give it the place of honor it needs, says Jay Steffen, assistant planning director. Thirteen new trees, Emerald Sunshine Elms and Spring Flurry Serviceberry (tree form), will offer shade and accentuate the monument and walkways.

"The new design makes [the park] universally accessible," Steffen says. "Walkways will go through the park and up to the monument; there will be a lawn area and other landscaping, bike racks, and two historical benches that will be donated by Bruce Butgereit and History Remembered, Inc. Bruce Butgereit is the person who raised all the funds in the early 2000s to renovate the monument."

Steffen says the redesign also provides for a café space outside the Kendall Building and other buildings that border the park to the north.

"It's really kind of cool when you think about people milling about Rosa Parks Circle on the west end of Monroe Center," Steffen says, "and that this will be an anchor on the east end. It will be more inviting to people to spend time there, and yet we're not losing sight of the importance of the monument."

Project completion is set for December 15, 2013.
Companies involved in the project: Katerburg VerHage, FTC&H, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, Geotech, Inc., OCBA.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings courtesy of the City of Grand Rapids Planning Department.
Historic photos from the Grand Rapids Public Library

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