Stephen M. Ross, philanthropist, chairman of Related Cos. and U-M alum, announced a $100 million philanthropic gift to launch the fundraising campaign to advance construction of the Detroit Center for Innovation. The DCI, which will be located on the former Wayne County Jail site, will also be made possible by a significant contribution of land by Dan Gilbert. The first phase of the 14-acre Detroit Center for Innovation is expected to break ground in 2021.
“Detroit has always been an incredible place of innovation and opportunity, and the Detroit Center for Innovation will usher the city into a new era of leadership in technology. This gift is a symbol of progress and momentum in Detroit and I am incredibly proud to advance this transformative project. My time at the University of Michigan was foundational for my life and career, and I hope the students who come here seize the opportunity to make a difference and make an impact here in Detroit and across the country,” Ross said.
“This project could not be possible without the foresight and partnership of the City of Detroit, Wayne County, Mark Schlissel and Stephen Ross,” said Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Bedrock. “Together, we will strive to create a true centerpiece of the city – one that serves a higher purpose. This innovation center will create exciting opportunities as one of the city’s technology hubs well into the future, attracting employers, talent and technology.”
Announced in October 2019, the Detroit Center for Innovation will be anchored by a world-class 190,000 square-foot research and education center operated by U-M, the nation’s leading public research institution. The academic building, designed by world-renowned architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, will be a centerpiece of the first phase of a planned multi-building development at the east edge of downtown and will offer programs that focus on high-tech research, education and innovation.
“This historic gift from Stephen Ross ensures that his vision for the Detroit Center for innovation will move forward. The auto industry already is betting big on Detroit to be the center of technological advances in mobility and today’s announcement builds on that momentum. This is a great day for our city and we are deeply grateful to Stephen for his remarkable generosity and commitment to Detroit,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
“This investment reinforces the county’s decision to pursue an alternative to finishing the Gratiot jail,” said Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. “This Innovation Center will offer world-class educational opportunities, and no one is happier about that than me. Hopefully, it can also help set the bar for the type of intentional inclusion needed to build a world-class talent pipeline.”
The Center will build on Detroit’s growing presence as a center for innovation providing local businesses a pipeline of talent and offering opportunities for current workers to further their skills in a world of fast-paced technological change.
It is anticipated the new U-M facility will eventually serve up to 1,000 graduate and senior-level undergraduate students pursuing advanced degrees in a range of high-tech innovation disciplines, including mobility, artificial intelligence, data science, entrepreneurship, sustainability, cybersecurity, financial technology and more.
“Stephen Ross is an incredible supporter of the University of Michigan and its work, and we are grateful for his support of the Detroit Center for Innovation through this transformational gift,” University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said. “As a world-class public research institution, the University of Michigan has a responsibility to help address the challenges our region faces. Our partnership in the DCI will further our ability and capacity to do just that.”
The initial phase of the DCI build-out also will include incubator and start up services for entrepreneurs, collaboration space for established companies, residential units, a hotel and conference center and event space. The new multi-building complex will be located at the site of the former Wayne County Jail project at Gratiot and St. Antoine and serve as a new gateway to Detroit’s burgeoning downtown, connecting the Central Business District and Greektown Entertainment Center to Lafayette Park and Eastern Market.
“Envisioning the highest and best use for the Gratiot site at the gateway to our city was one of the first goals Dan Gilbert ever shared with me more than 10 years ago. Even then, before so much economic growth took place in Detroit, he imagined this property as a catalyst for developing and attracting top talent,” said Matt Cullen, CEO of Bedrock. “We look forward to contributing to a project where ideas will be born, careers will be developed, and Detroiters will have the opportunity to impact the future from their own back yard.”
Ross and Gilbert have long been benefactors of higher education in Michigan. Ross has previously given nearly $400 million to the University of Michigan. In 2017, Ross donated $50 million to support career development programs in the business school and provide resources for attracting and developing junior faculty. In 2013, Ross donated $200 million: $100 million for the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus for use by 900-plus student athletes in all sports, and $100 million to further develop a state-of-the-art collaborative learning environment on the Ross School campus. In 2004, Ross gave $100 million gift to endow operations for the business school, which was renamed the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. In 2016, Gilbert and Ross announced a donation to the Wayne State University Law School totaling $10 million.
Gilbert’s contribution to the Detroit Center for Innovation comes as he celebrates 10 years of investment in Detroit, which began when he relocated the suburban headquarters of Quicken Loans—now the largest home mortgage lender in America—to downtown Detroit. In the years since, Gilbert has committed $5.6 billion to acquiring and developing more than 100 properties, including new construction of ground up developments in downtown Detroit and Cleveland totaling more than 18 million square feet.