Today, donors and members of the media were given a tour of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation’s progress on the construction of the nearly 8,000-square-foot DeVos Learning Center and the complete renovation of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, which closed its doors in October. The learning center and museum are scheduled to open in early June.

I was happy to take part in the tour and snap some photos of the progress as well as hear about the plans for the museum moving forward. 

Now, if you think you've seen everything the Ford Museum has to offer, you're mistaken. The museum will take on a whole new look once construction is completed and exhibits will now be brought to life through video, scenic re-creations, digital interaction, historical artifacts, and text-based storylines.

More than $15 million in private funds were raised to build the new learning center, redesign the museum and its exhibits, and to create access to many of President Ford's important documents from when he served both in Congress and the White House.

“The DeVos Learning Center’s goal is to inspire students to make value- and principle-based decisions in the tradition of President and Mrs. Ford,” said Foundation Executive Director Joseph Calvaruso. “The learning center will present educational experiences to students that allow for increased awareness of civic engagement, both locally and globally.”

In addition to the private funds that made the project possible, Calvaruso said that it would not have been possible to be on schedule if not for the engagement of local design and construction professionals Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc. (FTCH) and Pioneer Construction. “We are lucky to have two local firms engaged in the design, engineering and construction process. FTCH and Pioneer have kept the project on track, even during the rainy summer.”

The newly designed exhibits throughout the museum are being crafted by Xibitz, a local company.

The DeVos Learning Center is being built to LEED-Silver standards, which includes design elements that enhance energy efficiency, improve air quality, and provides for on-site stormwater control measures.  All interior lighting will use LED type bulbs and have installed controls that automatically adjust the lighting based on need. A highly reflective roofing system that does not retain excessive amounts of heat from the sun has been installed, along with low-flow plumbing fixtures on all faucets and toilets. The use of low-emitting VOC adhesives, sealants, paints, flooring systems, composite wood materials, and non-CFC based refrigerants allow for improved air quality. Rain and water runoff is handled by directing water to bio-swales and landscaping areas using native vegetation to hold water for on-site infiltration.

To celebrate the completion of both projects, a gala will be held during the evening of June 6, 2016 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids and, on the morning of June 7, ceremonies will be held at the museum for the grand opening of the learning center and the re-dedication of the museum.

Members of the Ford family, several members of President Ford’s cabinet, foundation trustees and local, state, and federal leaders are expected to attend the gala and re-dedication events. The public is encouraged to attend both events. Tickets will need to be purchased to attend the June 6 gala while the grand opening and rededication event is free.

Individuals wishing to purchase tickets for the gala event can do so by contacting the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation offices at 616-254-0396, or emailing at rsvp@38foundation.org.