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Motown Museum gets $10M in federal funds to hit symbolic milestone as expansion goal grows

Otis Williams (The Temptations) and Smokey Robinson on the Motown Museum's new plaza on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

Otis Williams of The Temptations poses with Smokey Robinson

For years, Michigan native and avid music fan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow vowed to secure federal funding for the Motown Museum as it marched toward a $55 million expansion goal.

The senator made good on her promise in December, locking in $10 million for the Detroit institution as part of a $1.7 trillion federal omnibus package.

It was enough to propel the Motown Museum past its long-sought $55 million target, following six years of fundraising and dozens of prominent donations from foundations, corporations and Motown founder Berry Gordy himself.

The milestone turned out to be symbolic: The museum announced Wednesday it has bumped its fundraising target to $65 million, prompted by inflation-related surges in construction costs.

Still, the federal windfall was cause for celebration at the West Grand Boulevard campus, site of Motown’s original studio and home to Hitsville, U.S.A., where the museum’s tours draw visitors from across the globe.

“I don’t know that holiday gifts get much better,” said museum CEO and Chairwoman Robin Terry.

The $1.7 trillion omnibus bill was signed by President Joe Biden two days before Christmas.

Terry applauded Stabenow for “being willing to go out on a limb, fight for it and deliver.”

“Internally, our team celebrated that ($55 million mark),” Terry said. “When we set out on this campaign, we knew it would be a tall order. But this is just a challenging time for construction projects. In Detroit and across the country, costs are skyrocketing.”

Terry said the appropriation arrived at a critical moment, “allowing us to move forward with the final phase of construction, uninterrupted.”

Stabenow, a Democrat who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2001, is a lifelong musician who helped pay her way through Michigan State University gigging as a folk singer. She announced last week she won’t seek reelection in 2024.

The Motown Museum expansion groundbreaking included Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Motown founder Berry Gordy, museum CEO Robin Terry, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The senator has been front and center at many high-profile Motown moments in recent years — appearing at the museum’s 2019 expansion groundbreaking, attending Gordy’s Kennedy Center Honors in 2021 and joining an array of Motown stars when the museum unveiled its new plaza in August.

Stabenow was a close friend of late Motown Museum founder Esther Gordy Edwards, said Terry, a granddaughter of Edwards and a great-niece of Berry Gordy.

The Motown Museum embarked on its expansion project in 2016, launching a then-$50 million fundraising campaign with eyes on a three-phase construction plan.

The first expansion phase, Hitsville Next, established a base for the museum’s educational, youth and community programming by bridging three buildings adjacent to the Hitsville house.

The second phase, completed last summer, includes the paved plaza and refurbishments to the Hitsville house.

Construction began in autumn on the third and final phase, a 40,000-square-foot building that will include a theater and exhibit space.

The Motown Museum funding was among dozens of Michigan-related appropriations secured by the state’s congressional delegation in the December omnibus package. The museum’s $10 million will be administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or

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