Ross, Ilitch Building $250 Million Detroit Center for Innovation in The District Detroit

DETROIT — Related Companies, Olympia Development of Michigan, and the University of Michigan today announced that the Detroit Center for Innovation will be built in The District Detroit.

Related Companies officials said in a Monday press release the new location of the DCI “ensures it will have the maximum positive economic and social impact on the people of Detroit, while propelling city-, region-, and statewide job creation and inclusive economic growth.”

The three-building DCI campus is to be built on what is currently an approximately four-acre, development-ready surface parking area between Cass and Grand River and between W. Columbia Street on the north and Elizabeth Street on the south.

Accoring to the release, it will be anchored by an estimated $250 million, 200,000-square-foot, world-class research and education center to be operated by the University of Michigan.

The research and education center is expected to be accompanied by a technology incubator in the to-be restored and expanded former Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge building on Cass Ave. A third building will be new construction and create nearly 300 units of housing along Cass Ave. The DCI campus will also include green space.

“As a native Detroiter, I believe it is critical for the DCI to have a catalytic economic and social impact on the people of Detroit. That impact will be best achieved in The District Detroit where it will connect with existing density and ignite additional development, especially with technology leaders like ServiceNow driving job creation, attracting entrepreneurs, and inspiring the next generation of trailblazing talent,” said Stephen Ross, Chairman of Related Companies. “I have tremendous respect for Christopher Ilitch and Olympia Development’s longstanding commitment to Detroit and am thrilled to partner with them to contribute to the vision of The District Detroit for the betterment of our entire community.”

The DCI research and education center is seeded by a $100 million donation by Stephen Ross and the contribution of land by the Ilitch organization. Groundbreaking is expected to begin in 2023.

“The Detroit Center for Innovation will increase access to opportunity for Detroiters, help nurture and retain talent, and drive positive social and economic impacts throughout the city, region, and state,” said Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. “We look forward to working with Stephen Ross and Related Companies – leaders in creating visionary neighborhoods, in developing affordable housing, and in creating unique places across the country – along with the University of Michigan to support the growth of the DCI.”

Olympia Development and Related also announced they are exploring additional development opportunities in The District Detroit officials said will “amplify the positive impact of the DCI,” which will center around a purpose-driven enterprise committed to working closely with local Detroit minority- and women-owned businesses in its development efforts.

ODM and Related will engage stakeholders across the city in discussions around potential future development. More information will be shared in the coming weeks and months. Related and ODM are expected to focus on job creation and accelerating community-minded priority developments, including preservation and adaptive reuse of existing historic buildings, affordable and market-rate housing, sustainable green spaces and commercial office, retail, and restaurants. 

Digital workflow company ServiceNow recognizes Detroit and the DCI as ideal locations for its workforce growth and talent needs. ServiceNow plans to expand its current employee base there, as well as build a skilled technology talent pipeline for the future.

The company, whose Now Platform is used by approximately 80% of the Fortune 500, has also committed to creating partnerships and other talent-related opportunities with universities such as Wayne State and the University of Michigan Engineering Career Resource Center, as well as with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, in the Detroit area.

“ServiceNow is deeply inspired to partner with Stephen Ross and the Detroit Center for Innovation,” said Bill McDermott, President and Chief Executive Officer of ServiceNow. “The amazing talent we need for our company is here in Detroit. We will build a team here, invest in this community, and establish a new innovation hub at the forefront of digital transformation.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer noted that the DCI and surrounding development would help Michigan address some of its most pressing challenges and opportunities.

“Michigan is the home of opportunity, and the DCI will provide more access to economic growth for Detroiters and residents across our state. This unique community-driven development will catalyze entrepreneurship, attract new businesses to Michigan, and grow our state’s world-class workforce,” Whitmer said. 

Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan has expressed his support.

“This new location and partnership will be the key to revitalizing the Grand River corridor between Cass Tech and downtown, and tying it together with progress being made in the District Detroit,” said Mayor Duggan. “To have already landed an anchor tenant like ServiceNow on this new campus is a sign of the enormous potential here for new business and residential growth, and opportunity for the brilliant young minds in our city.”

A new chapter for U-M

The DCI marks a new chapter in the University of Michigan’s long-standing commitment to Detroit and will enhance the university’s ability to drive innovation across a variety of fields in which advanced technology is increasingly critical, according to U-M President Mark Schlissel.

The DCI is unique in that it will provide a space for the university to engage with industry, nonprofit and community partners to develop the most relevant academic programs and identify research opportunities of mutual interest and benefit, Schlissel said.

“We are enthusiastic about what the Detroit Center for Innovation will mean for the city, its residents and businesses and our current and future students,” Schlissel said. “The University of Michigan is already setting the groundwork for this new academic center, and we look forward to providing the kind of advanced educational programs that will meet the needs of an evolving workforce and move our economy forward.”

The new academic center in The District Detroit is part of the university’s growing footprint in and around Detroit, where the university was founded in 1817. The university’s local presence includes its nearby UM-Dearborn campus, a “cradle to career” P-20 collaboration with the Detroit Public Schools Community District at Marygrove College in Northwest Detroit and the U-M Detroit Center on Woodward Avenue.

Currently, the university’s Detroit-based programs and functions include several initiatives designed to serve the city of Detroit and its residents through education, research, and service. They include a dedicated undergraduate admissions office, the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center and the Partnership on Economic Mobility, a joint effort between U-M’s Poverty Solutions initiative and the city to identify and implement concrete, evidence-based strategies that improve economic opportunity and reduce poverty in Detroit. 

University of Michigan Board of Regents Chair Jordan Acker, in noting the board’s support for the project, hailed the announcement as a win for both the university and the city.

“Our students will have the opportunity to gain the unique skills, knowledge and experience needed to lead the tech-driven economy of the future,” Acker said. “And Detroit, as well as the wider region, will soon be able to tap into a new talent pipeline tailored to meet the needs of the local economy.”

While the university will provide instruction at the DCI’s academic center, degrees and certificates will be awarded through the Ann Arbor campus. The academic center is designed to serve U-M students in the last year of their undergraduate program, as well as students seeking graduate degrees or certificates that indicate completion of specified programs to learn the tech and other skills needed to advance their careers.

When opened, the DCI will provide Michigan businesses and communities a pipeline of talent and offer opportunities for current workers to further their skills in a world of fast-paced technological change. It will also build on Detroit’s growing presence as a center for innovation, which now includes Ford’s new Corktown mobility innovation campus, TechTown Detroit and Wayne State University.

The academic center will be designed with faculty input and give faculty and students the opportunity to engage in interesting, innovative research across fields where advanced technology is important. Business incubators, research and development, and collaboration space for large established companies, co-working space, and startup support services will also be available, bringing top minds from the private sector together with the public and academic sectors.

The collaborative approach will encourage business growth in Detroit as students graduate and start their own businesses in the area, with continued support from the DCI.