1. Announcing the Detroit Center for Innovation partnership

    October 30, 2019

    To All Members of the University of Michigan Community:

    As a great public research university, the University of Michigan has a responsibility to focus our academic strength on the challenges and opportunities that face the public we serve. For an institution with a more than 200-year history of driving growth and opportunity in our state, there is no more impactful place to do this than in the Detroit region.

    We are proud to announce that U-M will add to and enhance our legacy of service by accepting Mayor Mike Duggan’s invitation to partner on the Detroit Center for Innovation to be built in downtown Detroit. The center will help make our work in Detroit even more comprehensive, aligned to our mission, and responsive to local needs.

    The Detroit Center for Innovation will further the economic development of the city and region. U-M’s role as the center’s anchor is to provide a pipeline of talent and platform for research collaboration to help grow and attract businesses and entrepreneurs, while positioning the future workforce for success in a dynamic and diversified economy.

    We will do this through research and educational programs located in an academic building that will be constructed in the first phase of the center’s development. Its construction will be made possible by a major gift from Stephen M. Ross and a leadership gift from Dan Gilbert, as well as other public and private funders.

    The university’s partners in this world-class education and research center are the City of Detroit; Related Companies, Stephen M. Ross’ development firm; and Bedrock, Dan Gilbert’s full-service real estate firm.  It will be located at 1400 St. Antoine Street. In addition to the academic building, the 14-acre site will include business collaboration and incubation space, residential units, and a hotel and conference center. Future phases of the project may include additional residential and commercial buildings, co-developed by Bedrock and Related Companies. We will be joined today at the announcement by regional stakeholders and leaders, including representatives from the Detroit City Council and Wayne County.

    U-M will provide advanced educational programs through the academic center that will be tailored to the current and future needs of the local economy. These could include senior-level undergraduate and graduate courses and stackable certificate credentials in highly relevant, growing areas such as mobility, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, privacy, data science, financial technology, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and advanced manufacturing.

    The center will not be a separate degree-granting institution but will offer degrees through the UM-Ann Arbor campus. Our faculty will maintain 100 percent control over the curriculum. I have asked Vice Provost James Hilton to chair an interdisciplinary committee made up of faculty from our three campuses to develop the center’s academic programs, and to advise on the building’s design in relation to academic needs.

    In developing academic programs, the faculty committee will consult with Detroit’s business community, including ongoing assessments to determine whether our programs are meeting the most pressing needs.

    This new project is just the latest part of a thriving ecosystem of U-M engagement with the city of Detroit and its people. The University of Michigan’s footprint in Detroit is deep and broad, dating to our founding there in 1817. Our work involves collaborations that support many of our state’s and communities’ needs, including public K-12 education, college readiness, community engaged research, service learning, public health, economic development and a partnership on economic mobility with the Mayor’s Office. The foundations for many of these collaborations began years, or even decades, ago through connections with local leaders, public school teachers, businesses and community advocates.

    The project’s academic center gives us the opportunity to build additional relationships, as we always have in Detroit. Our current plans for U-M’s Detroit Center and the Rackham Building will not change, and like all of our endeavors in Detroit, our partnership on the center will be guided by a set of principles developed through our long-term commitment to this work. Those principles include:

    • Principle of Recognition for the expertise and knowledge within the community
    • Principle of Respect for individuals, communities, and their resources
    • Principle of Equitable Partnership focused on reciprocal relationships, transparency, and accountability

    The opportunities and challenges confronting Detroit are similar to those of other post-industrial cities that are being forced to adjust to a rapidly evolving and technologically driven global economy. Strategies developed here are likely to be of value elsewhere, increasing the impact of our work.

    I invite you to read more about our comprehensive engagement in Detroit and learn more about the Detroit Center for Innovation in the University Record.

    I congratulate the faculty and staff who have been working to prepare us for this very special announcement, and I also thank the many individuals now and in past decades whose deep engagement with the people of the city has advanced our public mission and contributed to our standing as a world-class university. I look forward to the additional impact we will make in our region for years to come.


    Mark S. Schlissel