Amway Grand Plaza celebrated 30 years with a big event and some reflection. When Amway founders Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel set their sights on creating a hotel, there was very little development downtown.
The fancy parties, the furniture and the feeling you've stepped back in time. In the late 1970s someone walking into the Pantlind Hotel would have seen a restaurant and recognized little else.
“This was the check in counter where we're sitting, that big sunburst wasn't there. These beautiful fixtures weren't here,” said Amway Co-Founder Rich DeVos.
On top of that, the downtown area had few attractions, restaurants or hang-out places for families. It was around this time that DeVos and his partner Jay Van Andel were approached to start work on a music hall and convention center downtown.
From there came the question: where will the visitors stay?
“Maybe we should build a hotel downtown. Nobody else seems to want to. We couldn't get anybody else to build the hotel, nobody wanted to invest downtown. None of the big hotels wanted to build, the Hilton, other hotels said, 'we don't build hotels downtown anymore. We build them near airports," DeVos said.
So they built their own in various phases, doing $64 million in renovations, including a new glass tower.
“I remember seeing plans on the kitchen table that originally had the hotel tower in the center of the river. The river was such an incredible feature of our city, [they thought] maybe that would be the way to do it. But it got very complicated, well maybe that's not the best way to do it," Amway President Doug DeVos.
“Their goal was a little bit of what's been done here. They wanted to represent the historic part of the hotel, but then they also wanted a contemporary side," said Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel.
And with the completion of the hotel in 1983, in came the restaurants and events, and the people.
"It was a surprise when I got here that Grand Rapids would have such a gorgeous hotel. This is the type of historical, iconic hotel you see in major gateway cities," said Joe Tomaselli, CEO of Amway Hotel Corporation.
Now they're celebrating a big anniversary and planning new improvements to the ambassador ballroom -- trying to keep the balance between rich history and an up to date, modern facility.
The celebration event Wednesday night raised money for United Way’s Schools of Hope campaign. They help with childhood literacy.