Motown Museum Celebrates Completion of First Two Phases of Expansion

The grand opening event included appearances by Smokey Robinson, Ottis Williams, Martha Reeves, and more
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Smokey Robinson, pictured above at Rocket Plaza, speaks at the Motown Museum celebration with (clockwise) Mike Rizik of Rocket Mortgage, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Otis Williams, and Motown Museum CEO Robin Terry. // Photograph courtesy of Motown Museum

Two phases of Motown Museum’s long-awaited expansion are now complete. The Detroit museum celebrated the opening of the new Rocket Plaza and Hitsville Next, an educational programming and creative hub, with a star-studded event on Aug. 8.

“The vision for this ambitious project that was first announced in 2016 — and that so many generous and committed supporters have contributed to — is now a reality,” says Robin Terry, Motown Museum chairwoman and CEO, in a press release. “Not only are we back — but we are back, bigger and better than ever.”

Terry was joined at the grand opening event by Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II; Sen. Debbie Stabenow; Rocket Companies’ Matt Rizik, who is the chief tax officer at Rock Holdings; The Temptations’ Otis Williams; and record producer and the Miracles’ front man Smokey Robinson. Motown alumni Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas, Duke Fakir of the Four Tops, and Temptations’ manager Shelly Berger also made appearances, and the crowd enjoyed performances from participants of The Lyric Project songwriting workshop and the cast of Ain’t Too Proud.

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Hitsville Next takes up three historic buildings on Grand Boulevard.

Rocket Plaza serves as a community gathering space and features a lit granite paver expanse, colorful flowers and plants, park benches, and a pop-up performance stage with a sound system playing Motown songs. According to a press release, the plaza is inspired by the time when young music artists would gather in front of the Motown headquarters. Meanwhile, the Hitsville Next hub takes up three historic buildings on Grand Boulevard that were previously owned by Motown records. It features professional record pods and community activation space and will offer programming — including spoken word competition Motown Mic, singing competition Amplify, The Lyric Project, and Spark summer camps — geared toward fostering new talent.

Both projects were designed by Detroit architecture firm Hamilton Anderson & Associates. The expansion design is led by Perkins&Will, a North Carlino global architecture and design firm.

Locals can check out the expansion for themselves when the Motown Museum hosts its free Founder’s Day celebration from noon to 5 p.m. on Aug. 13. Held in honor of the museum’s late founder, Esther Gordy Edwards, the event will include entertainment on the Rocket Plaza. The museum will also begin hosting abbreviated walking tours — including Studio A and the museum’s campus — on Aug. 14. Full tours are expected to return on Oct. 1.

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