He is often credited with saving the city of Grand Rapids. Even if such a claim is somewhat overwrought, there is no denying the stimulating influence of Dick DeVos on the skyline of the city he loves.
Ironically, the involvement of Dick DeVos in making Grand Rapids one of America’s most attractive destinations begins with his effort to block a major new development that most other movers and shakers wanted.
It was in the early 1990s. Business leaders and others were lining up to support a new multi-purpose sports/convention center to be located in downtown Grand Rapids. When DeVos got wind of the idea, he started making some calls. His goal was to put the breaks on the idea. He had solid reasoning for doing so.
Dick DeVos reminded his fellow titans of Michigan industry that Detroit had gone down the same road when that city built the Pontiac Silverdome for the NFL’s Detroit Lions in the mid-1970s. About 20 years later, the facility was closed. It was dynamited in 2017. The problems started for the multimillion stadium when the Lions opted out of playing there. Suddenly the Silverdome was a white elephant that no one knew what to do with. The fallout was devastating for downtown Detroit.
Dick DeVos did not want Grand Rapids to make a similar mistake. Instead, he spearheaded the forming of a group called Grand Action. Through this agency, Grand Rapids developed a more strategic and calculated downtown development plan that ended up creating an array of facilities that transformed the Grand Rapids skyline.
Among them are the DeVos Performance Hall, the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Place Convention Center and the now-famous Grand Rapids City Market.
Dick DeVos went on to revitalize the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, another step in really putting Grand Rapids on the map as an American premier city.