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Motown Museum breaks ground on first phase of expansion

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2019

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DETROIT -- With prayers and the pop of confetti guns, the Motown Museum celebrated the Motown organization's 60th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 22, by breaking ground on the first phase of a $50 million expansion of hits Hitsville USA facility on West Grand Boulevard.

Company founder Berry Gordy Jr. was among the dignitaries on hand for the late morning ceremony under a tent on the east side of the museum, joined by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Detroit Police Chief James Craig, Rev. Jesse Jackson and representatives of major donors such as the Ford Motor Company Fund, the W.K. Kellogg Foundational and the Ethan Danielson Foundation.

"I'm very grateful that all of you are here," a visibly emotional Gordy told the invitation-only audience that included many Motown alumni in town for the weekend's golden anniversary celebrations. "Not only will this expanded museum entertain and tell the stories of talented and creative people who succeeded against all odds but will inspire and create opportunity and teach young people to go after their dreams and continue to make this world better and better and go after things that seem impossible, if it's for the right reason and the right time."

Gordy also paid tribute to his late sister Esther Gordy Edwards, who served as Motown executive and worked to create the Motown Museum during the early 80s.

"She is responsible for all of us being here today," Gordy said. "She had the foresight to follow me around while I was moving to California to make movies. I was throwing out stuff and she was running behind me, picking it up.

"She took all the memorabilia left behind and turned it into this phenomenal monument, the Motown Museum. Esther, thank you."

Gordy also praised the work of his grandniece, museum CEO and Chariwoman Robin Terry, for continuing her grandmother's work and "still reaching for higher heights, and still growing."

Gordy began choking up as he concluded that, "I appreciate all the love I've gotten from you, and we'll continue to work and to this thing together and...I love you all!"

The groundbreaking was for a wing of the development called Hitsville Next, which will begin new educational programs in the arts and entrepreneurship next year, even while construction is under way. Terry also announced that the museum had reached the halfway point, $25 million, in funds raised for the museum's expansion into a 50,000-square-foot facility. "This $50 million expansion is going to solidify the Motown museum as an international draw and a world-class travel destination," Whitmer said. "It's jobs for Detroit. It's investment in community. It will create opportunities for children."

Stabenaw, predicting the proposed expansion will offer "the most amazing museum and education and entrepreneurial program the world has ever seen," issued a challenge that the remaining $25 million be raised by the time Hitsville Next opens.

The shovels-in-the-ground moment was accompanied by the Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell version of "Ain't Now Mountain High Enough," as well as a shower of gold confetti shot from behind the stage. Among the alumni looking on were the Temptations' Otis Williams, Claudette Robinson of the Miracles and acclaimed musical arranger Paul Riser.

The 60th anniversary weekend has so far featured an alumni luncheon on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the museum, followed by a gospel concert that night -- where the Detroit Youth Choir, runner-up on this season of NBC's "America's Got Talent," was a late addition. The inaugural Motown Honors on Sunday night will pay tribute to Gordy with speeches and performances by the Temptations, Four Tops, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, the Velvelletes and more, with a Soul in One charity golf outing closing things out Monday, Sept. 23, in West Bloomfield.

More information about the events and expansion can be found at motownmuseum.org.

Web Site: www.motownmuseum.org

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