With a recent surge of growth, the cities of Southwest Michigan are ready to host more groups and events. New-builds and property restorations are drawing locals and visitors alike back to the downtown neighborhoods.
Recently opened hotels have added to room counts, with more properties expected to debut later this year and early next, and convention center and venue projects are adding even more meeting square footage to this region.
“Groups, meetings and conferences like coming to Grand Rapids because we have a variety of experiences for people with multiple interests,” said Stephanie Kotschevar, public relations manager at Experience Grand Rapids. “Grand Rapids not only has several group-friendly attractions like the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, ArtPrize and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, we also have the small-town charm with the big-city amenities.”
Downtown Grand Rapids’ convention campus is anchored by the DeVos Place Convention Center and Van Andel Arena and surrounded by seven hotels and six museums as well as restaurants, retail entertainment venues and craft breweries.
Developments underway include an AC Hotel by Marriott in a restored 127-year old building downtown.
The original brick facade is being renovated and the interior is being transformed into the 130-room hotel, on track for a spring 2019 unveiling. Other properties expected to open in 2019 include a Canopy by Hilton, an Embassy Suites by Hilton and a Hyatt Place. A 120-room hotel will occupy part of the 42-story Hinman Tower building, the tallest constructed in Grand Rapids.
“A feasibility study pertaining to a 400 to 500 room downtown hotel is nearly complete,” Small said. “This will determine the feasibility or not of adding a large hotel either at the DeVos Place Convention Center or behind Van Andel Arena. The results of the hotel study will play a role in determining the timing of a convention center expansion.”
Michigan’s state capital is making way for more visitors. The Greater Lansing area has two recently opened hotels, two more expected to open by fall, and a 150-room Graduate Hotel in the East Lansing Park District is set to debut in 2019.
Add that to the accessibility of the city due to its central Michigan location and the resources it offers as the state capital and home of Michigan State University.
“This gives convention planners access to state legislators for panels or specialized experts on a number of fields on the campus of Michigan State,” explained Brendan Dwyer, manager of marketing communications for the Greater Lansing CVB.
Groups also have options when it comes to choosing off-site activities and venues.
“Downtown Lansing offers numerous great restaurants and pubs with charming outdoor patios,” according to Dwyer. “Additionally in downtown Lansing is Cooley Law School Stadium, home of our Minor League Baseball team the Lansing Lugnuts.
“In East Lansing convention attendees can mix and mingle among the arts at the Eli and Edith Broad Art Museum, designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid,” he added.
Tourists flock to Holland for its annual Tulip Time Festival, Dutch windmill and DeKlomp wooden shoes. And with the Holland Civic Center currently in the midst of a $22 million renovation project, groups will have even more reason to meet in the city.
The facility was originally built in 1954, and the complete overhaul also includes upgrades to the adjacent farmers market. The center is slated to reopen in September. Also in the downtown area, 300 hotel rooms are under construction which will bring the city’s downtown total to over 500.
According to Sally Hallan Laukitis, executive director of the Holland Area CVB, there is a new event space at Nelis’ Dutch Village.
“Het Terras is a newly constructed pavilion at Nelis’ Dutch Village,” Hallan Laukitis said. “It has grilling stations and other areas for food prep as well as a fire pit. There are also other venues on-site for smaller groups.”
Hallan Laukitis also spoke about the event space at Windmill Island Gardens, which features an authentic working windmill from the Netherlands. Events of up to 250 people can take place at the gardens at the Celebration Pavilion and the gazebo.
Battle Creek is at the junction of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek rivers, which allows for miles of riverfront parks and water activities. The amphitheater at Friendship Park, used for events, is located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River.
The largest hotel and meeting venue in the Battle Creek area is FireKeepers Casino Hotel. With 21,000 square feet of meeting space across nine rooms and capacity for 2,000 guests, the property is well prepared to host an array of events. FireKeepers, which has been awarded a AAA Four Diamond rating for four years, recently opened Dacey’s Taphouse. The new restaurant and bar has seating for 140 in the main area with room for another 50 in the mezzanine.
Kalamazoo, once known as the celery capital of the world, continues to evolve and expand. Earlier this year construction on a seven-story, $70 million mixed-use building began in downtown. The property will have retail, office and residential space.
In the last 10 years, Kalamazoo has also put $80 million into its arts and culture, which is evident in many of the venues available for private rental. The Kalamazoo Civic Theater, the historic Kalamazoo State Theater, Miller Auditorium on Western Michigan University’s campus, and the Chenery Auditorium are all available for private functions.
Muskegon has over $1 billion in new or renovated buildings in the works, including a redeveloped downtown area, a new-build convention facility and beginning this fall, the Holiday Inn Downtown will undergo a property-wide renovation and become a Delta by Marriott hotel.
There’s also a multimillion-dollar new development underway downtown.
“Nine local businessmen have purchased the old paper mill with over 120 acres of waterfront property and will be building a new hotel, housing, restaurants and more,” said Bernadette Benkert, sales executive for Visit Muskegon.
SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN CVB CONTACT INFORMATION
Calhoun County Visitors Bureau
Experience Grand Rapids
Greater Lansing CVB
Holland Area CVB
Muskegon County CVB