Motown Museum gets $1M grant to boost expansion effort

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Plans to expand Detroit’s beloved Motown Museum and turn it into a “creative hub for entrepreneurship” are one step closer to becoming a reality after a local foundation donated $1 million to the museum’s $50 million fundraising goal.

The grant from the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation this month will go toward the first phase of the project, Hitsville Next, which will offer a growing series of youth and community programs. It will link three houses east of the famed Hitsville building that served as founder Berry Gordy Jr.’s original headquarters and studio.

Virginia Romano, executive director of the Dresner Foundation, which was started in 2012, said the organization chose Hitsville Next to support because it aligns with one of the foundation’s pillars, which is to provide opportunities to children and their families. 

“It’s an exciting project,” said Romano. “This expansion is going to provide opportunities for kids to not only explore the music industry — not everyone is going to grow up to be a musician — but give them an opportunity to explore facets of the industry.”

The Motown Museum on W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit's New Center area.

The grant comes after Motown Museum officials announced in late September that they’d raised $25 million for the expansion, putting them halfway to their fundraising goal. An official groundbreaking was held in September as part of Motown Records’ 60th anniversary celebrations.

Robin Terry, Motown Museum chairwoman and CEO, said the Dresner Foundation’s grant continues the momentum of 2019.

“As we move in 2020, we are both gratified and inspired to see that the momentum established last year is continuing to fuel exciting new progress and support for the vision of expansion,” she said in a press release.

The Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation is based in West Bloomfield Township. Joseph Dresner co-owned a family construction company and the couple lived in Franklin. Aside from supporting organizations that help youth and families, their foundation also funds projects dedicated to health and animal welfare.

Romano said the foundation’s grant is another way to carry on the legacy of the Dresners.

It “was their desire to allow kids in the community to experience things to unlock potential and I think that is exactly what will this project will do,” she said. 

Expansion plans for the site where Gordy built his music empire will be broken into four phases and include a 50,000 square foot building that will include interactive exhibits, a recording studio, a theater and larger museum store.

Hitsville, the house on West Grand Boulevard where it all started, won’t change. The new structure and parking area will sit on 10 city lots on Ferry Park Avenue behind Hitsville.

Terry said grants like the one from the Dresner Foundation are the cornerstore for bringing their expansion plans to life.

“Hitsville Next will offer life-changing programming and opportunities for the next generation of creatives in a state-of-the-art facility,” Terry said. “Our vision for this phase of the expansion is directly aligned with the foundation’s focus on enriching lives through impactful resources that promote a strong sense of well-being in young people.”