U-M academic programs to anchor Detroit Center for Innovation

By Don Jordan / Public Affairs – The University Record

The University of Michigan will anchor the Detroit Center for Innovation, a 14-acre center in downtown Detroit aimed at stimulating entrepreneurial activity, educating students and further diversifying the regional economy.

The Oct. 30 announcement of the center marks the beginning of a bold new chapter in the university’s two-centuries-long history of partnership and engagement with the city of Detroit and the region through local schools, community organizations and other partnerships.

In accepting the invitation to be a key partner in the project, U-M will operate a state-of-the-art research and academic center that is expected to focus on such areas as artificial intelligence, mobility, sustainability, data science, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship and financial technology.

The center will be designed to provide a new talent pipeline to current companies and attract new businesses to the area. Partners in the center include the state of Michigan, city of Detroit and Wayne County; Related Companies, Stephen M. Ross’ development firm; and Bedrock, Dan Gilbert’s full-service real estate firm. 

The development of the academic building will be made possible by a major gift from Ross, a native of Detroit, and a leadership gift from Gilbert, as well as other public and private funders.

“The Detroit Center for Innovation is just the latest part of a thriving ecosystem of U-M engagement with the city of Detroit and its people,” said President Mark Schlissel. “Our work involves collaborations that support many of our state’s and communities’ needs, and the foundations for many of these collaborations began years, or even decades, ago through connections with local leaders, public school teachers, businesses and community advocates.

“We greatly appreciate Stephen Ross’ long and generous history of working to propel our university into the future, and we look forward to embarking with Dan Gilbert on this new venture for Detroit.”

The Detroit Center for Innovation will be located at 1400 Saint Antoine St., the site of the former Wayne County Jail project, and will connect Detroit’s Central Business District and Greektown District to adjacent neighborhoods, Lafayette Park and Eastern Market.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and other project partners will take the next 90-180 days to assess the feasibility of the overall project and conduct community engagement with surrounding neighborhoods. Construction for the center is slated to start in 2021.

“This is an exciting opportunity for students around the world and is an exclamation point on Michigan’s efforts to build, attract and retain the best work force in America,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The first phase of development will include a $300 million, 190,000-square-foot academic center designed to serve U-M students in the last year of their undergraduate programs, as well as those people seeking graduate degrees or what are called “stackable certificates” that indicate completion of specified programs to learn the tech and other skills needed to advance their careers.

Proposed plans for the center also include a business collaboration and start-up incubator space, residential units, and a hotel and conference and event space.


Main Photo: An artist’s rendering of the planned Detroit Center for Innovation. (Image courtesy of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates)