U-M, Stephen Ross, and Olympia Development Announce $250M Detroit Center for Innovation

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Olympia Development of Michigan in Detroit, and Related Cos. in New York City today announced the Detroit Center for Innovation (DCI) will be built in The District Detroit, the 50-block sports and entertainment area in downtown Detroit that includes Little Caesars Arena and Comerica Park.
The Detroit Center for Innovation from the University of Michigan, Olympia Development of Michigan, and Related Cos., will be built in The District Detroit. // Courtesy of the Detroit Center for Innovation
The Detroit Center for Innovation from the University of Michigan, Olympia Development of Michigan, and Related Cos., will be built in The District Detroit. // Courtesy of the Detroit Center for Innovation

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Olympia Development of Michigan in Detroit, and Related Cos. in New York City today announced the Detroit Center for Innovation (DCI) will be built in The District Detroit, the 50-block sports and entertainment area in downtown Detroit that includes Little Caesars Arena and Comerica Park.

Originally planned for the former jail site at I-375 and Gratiot Avenue, the three-building DCI campus is to be built on what is currently a 4-acre, development-ready surface parking area between Cass and Grand River avenues, and between W. Columbia Street on the north and Elizabeth Street on the south. The area is located two blocks behind the Fox Theatre.

It will be anchored by an estimated $250 million, 200,000-square-foot world-class research and education center to be operated by U-M. 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 located at 2115 Cass Ave.

A third building will be new construction and create nearly 300 units of housing along Cass. 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,” says Stephen Ross, chairman of Related Co. “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.

“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,” says Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., which owns and operates Olympia Development of Michigan along with the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Fox Theatre, Little Caesars, and more.

“We look forward to working with Stephen Ross and Related Cos. — 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 today that they are exploring additional development opportunities in The District Detroit that 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.

The two companies 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.

ServiceNow, a leading digital workflow company, 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 percent 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,” says Bill McDermott, president and CEO 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.”

“The community-centered development vision for the Detroit Center for Innovation is an essential component of closing Detroit’s equity gap and creating economic opportunities for all Detroiters,” says Bishop Edgar Vann, founder of the Detroit Equity Report. “A collaboration of this magnitude, bringing together preeminent business leaders and educational institutions, offers a critical model for community-building and I look forward to partnering with them as the DCI comes to life.”

Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan has expressed his support for the development. “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.

“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.”

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), also voiced support for the DCI.

“We are optimistic that DPSCD students will have an opportunity to access (DCI) as we know that Detroit does not have a talent gap but an opportunity gap,” he says. “The opportunity is realized when students from the school district are invested in because this creates the potential for at scale, not isolated, long-term impact.”

With the addition of the Detroit Center for Innovation, The District Detroit – already home to Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business – will further become a centerpiece for education, innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainable development, and the retention and growth of talent. Wayne State and the University of Michigan are expected to explore programmatic partnerships through the DCI.

The DCI marks a new chapter in U-M’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, says Mark Schlissel, president of U-M.

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 says.

“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,” he says. “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 on Bates Street. 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 in Midtown.

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 says “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.

ServiceNow offers a cloud-based platform and solutions that are designed to deliver digital workflows and unlock productivity for employees and enterprises. For more information, visit: www.servicenow.com

Related Cos. is a global real estate and lifestyle company with more than $60 billion in assets owned or under development including the 28-acre Hudson Yards neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side, The Grand and Related Santa Clara in California, and The 78 in Chicago.

To read a cover story profile of Stephen Ross in the March/April 2021 issue of DBusiness, visit here.