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The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.

The University of Michigan, in collaboration with Related Companies and Olympia Development of Michigan, announced Monday the new Detroit Center for Innovation will be located in The District Detroit, a sports and entertainment hot spot in the city. At a press conference held at the Women’s City Club in Detroit, the University and DCI developers said they plan to begin construction in 2023 and will no longer be building on the previously announced location for the DCI — an abandoned Wayne County Jail site.

The Detroit Center for Innovation, first announced in Oct. 2019, will consist of a $300 million, 200,000 square-foot research and education center that will be accompanied by a technology incubator, 300 units of housing and a green space. Ilitch Holdings Inc. — a holding company that operates several sports and entertainment venues in The District Detroit — will provide the land for the center. 

In a press release shared with The Michigan Daily, University President Mark Schlissel said the DCI will allow the University to engage with a variety of industries and offer courses that benefit both the University and the Detroit community.

“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 DCI will award degrees and certificates through the Ann Arbor campus and will primarily serve undergraduate students in their final year as well as graduate students seeking specific technical certifications.

In Feb. 2020, U-M alum and chairman of Related Companies Stephen M. Ross promised to donate $100 million to the development of the DCI, and he attended the press conference announcing the location on Monday. In the press release, Ross said he is excited to be a part of the University’s development in The District Detroit and to see what new opportunities are created for Detroiters.

“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,” Ross said. “That impact will be best achieved in The District Detroit.” 

The DCI has been surrounded by controversy since its inception in 2019. In Nov. 2019, over 400 students signed a petition opposing the University’s decision to build on the proposed Wayne County Jail site, expressing concerns the elaborate center would increase gentrification in the city.

In Sept. 2021, The Detroit Free Press also reported tensions between the Board of Regents and President Schlissel over funding sources for the DCI. The report alleges Schlissel and Ross negotiated with the Ilitch organization without the Board’s knowledge. In a previous interview with the Daily, Schlissel said he was not present for negotiations between Ross and Dan Gilbert, who controlled the Wayne County Jail site. 

“The work of developing the Detroit Center for Innovation had really taken place between Stephen Ross and his company Related, and initially with Bedrock, Dan Gilbert’s company,” Schlissel said. “We were a partner to the extent that once the whole complex was built, we were going to run the educational programs we spoke about. I was not present for the detailed discussions between Ross and Gilbert that broke down, and then Ross began looking for other partners, as has been reported in the media.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also attended the conference on Monday and expressed his support for the project. In the press release, Duggan shared his excitement about the future collaboration between the University and Detroit, the city in which the University was founded in 1817. Duggan said he hopes the DCI will attract new business and innovation and provide educational opportunities for Detroit students.

“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,” Duggan said. “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.”

Daily News Editors Roni Kane and George Weykamp can be reached at ronikane@umich.edu and gweykamp@umich.edu