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John Ball Zoo

Bissell Treehouse & Idema Forest Realm
Grand Rapids, MI
13,690 sf
our role
Construction Manager

This project marks phase one of a capital expansion project at John Ball Zoo.

Project scope included:

  • An expansive boardwalk and site improvements, completed in-house with O‑A‑K carpenters
  • A new 4,790 sf tree house for special zoo events and rentals at the hilltop, features a board-formed, curved and tilted load-bearing concrete wall
  • 3,000 sf addition and 2,100 renovation to the existing gift shop and learning center
  • A new Funicular, which is essentially a tram on a track designed to take steep inclines and transport visitors to an overlook (like a ski lift). The 900’ ride is powered with motors on the tram cars. This system is more environmentally friendly than a cable-driven system and is the first Funicular of this kind in Michigan.
  • Upper and lower depot stations for the funicular, totaling 3,800 sf
  • A platform station providing the public with a scenic overlook of the City of Grand Rapids.
  • O‑A‑K also self-performed all foundations, footings and decorative structural concrete work, totaling 1,027 cubic yards
  • Tigerwood (astronium fraxinifolium) decking which is very resistant to insects and holds a high rating of 1850 on the Janka scale (which rates wood for hardness)

Construction of this highly visible project is in collaboration with the John Ball Zoological Society, Kent County and other community stakeholders. Funding made possible by the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation.

Treehouse 0007