By Beth Bily
Two area business families have offered a challenge grant of one-half million dollars toward the renovation and expansion project planned for the Reif Center in Grand Rapids.
At Monday’s Grand Rapids Area Chamber meeting, David Marty, executive director of the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center, announced that the Wilcox family and Grand Rapids State Bank joined by the Ives family and Grand Hospitality were offering up $500,000 in matching funds to help raise local revenue toward the project.
The Reif Center opened in 1981, and was described by Marty as then “state-of-the-art.” But more than 30 years later, it’s in need of renovation and expansion to maintain its position as a regional arts and cultural center.
A planned $8 million overhaul would: provide new seats; deal with Americans with Disabilities Act issues; provide more public restrooms for women; expand the lobby; create working space for local arts groups; increase the height of the center’s fly loft by 25 feet to meet basic requirements for touring shows, and create a second theater/rehearsal space that seats 200 while also increasing the capacity of the current theater from 645 to more than 700.
The Reif Center is seeking significant bonding funds – in the amount of $3.9 million – and it’s seeking funding from the Blandin Foundation to move the project forward. State backing for the project has been described by Marty as “vital” to bring the project to fruition.
Both the Ives and Wilcox families hope their pledges will lead to other larger donations and better position the Reif in its quest for outside funding.
“We wanted to make sure that the Reif had enough horsepower to go to the Blandin Foundation and the Legislature,” said Noah Wilcox, president and CEO of Grand Rapids State Bank. “We’ll be matching those larger donations dollar for dollar.”
“Everything is timing,” said Mary Ives, who owns Grand Hospitality with her husband, Mike, “We’re trying to leverage one event to positively impact another event.”
Marty said the challenge grant pledge is the first money toward the actual renovation/expansion and would be used as a basis for garnering support from larger donors within the area.
“We’re really indebted and appreciative of the Ives and Wilcox families for putting this in front of the community,” said Marty.
Although this early stage fundraising campaign will target larger donations, Marty indicated a broader, community fundraising campaign would take place later.