Ross lands $100 million for UM’s Detroit Center for Innovation


The Detroit Center for Innovation, a massive project by developer Stephen Ross to build a downtown academic research center for the University of Michigan, landed $100 million in the next state budget.

Stephen Ross, a Detroit native, UM megadonor and president of New York-based Related Cos., previously pledged to donate $100 million toward the center’s construction.

With the new allocation, part of a $76 billion state budget deal finalized at 2:30 a.m. Friday, the center will likely have $200 million of its $250 million projected cost.

Ross’ Related Cos. must build the center and then donate the building to the university. The inauguration of the project is due to take place in 2023.

The state’s $76 billion budget, which takes effect Oct. 1, includes a large influx of federal COVID-19 pandemic relief dollars.

On Friday, UM referred all questions about the center to related companies, including whether the university is planning fundraising for the project.

The New York-based public relations firm handling inquiries for Related Cos. did not respond to questions from the Free Press on Friday about the project or the state’s $100 million funding request.

However, the company released a statement on behalf of the project thanking Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature for “investing in the development of this world-class nonprofit center for research, education and entrepreneurship.”

“The DCI will accelerate the development and retention of local talent, provide new educational pathways, propel job creation, spur and diversify inclusive economic growth statewide, and attract new businesses to Michigan,” says the communicated.

The Ilitch family organization is a partner in the DCI project with Ross and is donating land for the development.

The 200,000-square-foot DCI building is to be part of a three-building campus on what is now Ilitch-owned land and parking lots west of the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit.

On Friday, a representative for Ilitch also referred all comments to Related Cos.

After:Detroit Center for Innovation’s new location unveiled

After:Detroit’s new developments include retail, hotels and housing: view renderings

The center was originally proposed in 2019 for the Wayne County Jail cleared project site off Gratiot, on the outskirts of downtown. But those plans changed after Related Cos. and the real estate company Bedrock of Dan Gilbert, owner of the so-called “fail jail” site, have canceled their collaboration for unspecified reasons.

Columbia Street entrance to the Detroit Center for Innovation

When the new DCI site was announced in December, Detroit officials said the project would not receive local tax breaks or development grants.

The $100 million allocation would be direct state funding.

Ross and the Ilitch organization could extend their collaboration beyond the DCI.

In May, they jointly released concept renderings showing a range of new retail, housing, hotel and office developments in and near the city centre, including a possible Equinox Hotel to be built next to Little Caesars Arena.

Ross said the Detroit Center for Innovation would be a catalyst for these potential new developments to happen.

“People want to live in inner cities, and I don’t think there’s a single site in the country that has that opportunity,” Ross told the Free Press in May.

Ross also owns the Miami Dolphins NFL team and attended this spring’s Mackinac Policy Conference.

The DCI would be focused on high-tech research and education and would serve approximately 1,000 UM students, primarily graduate students and final-year undergraduates.

The center is also to provide programs for those who are not UM students, including internships for young Detroit students and opportunities for adults in the local workforce to upgrade their skills.

Business Leaders for Michigan, a business group, released a statement praising the inclusion of the $100 million DCI allocation in the budget.

“This center for world-class research, education and entrepreneurship – and more – is essential to keeping our economy competitive on the global stage,” the statement said.

ContactJC Reindl at313-378-5460 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jcreindl. Learn more about business and sign up for our business newsletter.


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