Motown Museum to reopen this weekend for tours, hold Founders Day bash

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Detroit's beloved Motown Museum is breaking in its brand new outdoor plaza Saturday with a community bash in memory of its late founder, Esther Gordy Edwards, and the public is welcome to join the party.

The free Founder's Day celebration will be held from noon-5 p.m. on the granite plaza that now stretches across Hitsville U.S.A. and four adjoining houses on West Grand Boulevard. There will be food, community vendors and more than a dozen performers from the museum's Hitsville NEXT program.

"We'll have food trucks, 17 performances, all kinds of good stuff. And that's in honor of my grandmother. Every year we celebrate her," said Robin Terry, the Motown Museum's CEO and chairwoman.

The Motown Museum celebrates the completion of two of three phases of an ambitious expansion plan, including a new square in front of the museum.

Public tours, meanwhile, will finally resume Sunday, though they'll be limited to just parts of the museum and its campus because its sole elevator is still broken.

The museum — founded in 1985 by Edwards, a former Motown Records executive and sister of Motown founder, Berry Gordy — has been closed to the public for more than a year as crews worked to complete the first two phases of its extensive $55 million restoration and expansion plan.

One of the biggest changes to the museum is its new plaza, formally called Rocket Plaza. Designed by Detroit-based architectural firm Hamilton Anderson & Associates, it was created to carve out a community gathering space similar to how Motown stars used to hang out in front of the record studio in the 1960s. 

"This plaza is the new front porch to Motown," said Terry.

Jimmy Settles, Jim Vella, Elesha Bridgers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Berry Gordy, Robin Terry, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ethan Davidson, Faye Nelson break ground on Hitsville Next.

Hitsville NEXT, which was part of the museum's first phase of expansion, restored the homes adjacent to Hitsville USA and interconnected them to create space for programming and collaboration. A third phase of expansion, which hasn't started yet, will add additional programming space behind the museum.

Saturday's Founder's Day party follows a private gathering the museum held Monday with Motown stars, donors and other dignitaries to celebrate the museum's expanded campus. Some of the label's biggest names attended including Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Otis Williams of the Temptations and Duke Fakir of the Four Tops.

The Founder’s Day bash is hosted by the Motown Museum. As for tours, they'll be "abbreviated" walking tours of portions of Hitsville U.S.A., including Studio A and the museum’s campus. Full tours are expected to resume Oct. 1.

Motown Museum Founder's Day

noon-5 p.m. Saturday.

Performances, food and vendors outside the museum, 2648 W. Grand Blvd.