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The University of Michigan Center for Innovation (UMCI) was welcomed to The District Detroit on December 14 at a groundbreaking ceremony featuring inspiring remarks from business, community, government and education leaders – a testament to the UMCI’s powerful potential to nurture and retain talent and drive positive social and economic impacts throughout the city, region, and state. 

“Today’s groundbreaking is far more than the promise of a new building. It is a profound expression of our sustained and lasting commitment to the city of Detroit, and of our faith in a shining future for the state of Michigan,” said University of Michigan President Santa J. Ono. “It’s a proud moment for all of us.” 

The event also included rousing performances from the U-M Student Jazz Trio and Fanfare Band, and Detroit’s Cass Tech Madrigals, as well as the introduction of Scott Shireman, the inaugural director of the UMCI.  

Chris Ilitch, CEO, Ilitch Companies, spoke about the organization’s longstanding commitment to education and supporting the community. 

“For nearly 65 years, the mission of our organization has been to leverage our companies, our resources, our relationships and our partnerships to further our community,” Ilitch said. “And this is what we can accomplish when we work together and aspire to do tremendous things to lift up the people of our city, state and region to new heights. I am truly inspired by this entire initiative.” 

The UMCI academic building will be funded by a $100 million gift from donor Stephen M. Ross, $100 million from the state of Michigan, a land donation of 2.08 acres at the intersection of Grand River Avenue and West Columbia Street from Olympia Development of Michigan, and an additional $50 million that will be raised from donors. 

The cornerstone of the first building of U-M was laid on Sept. 14, 1817, near the corner of Bates and Congress streets in Detroit. “Now the University of Michigan is back home, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. 

Other speakers at the event included, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Mary Sheffield, Detroit City Council president, Stephen Ross, Chairman of Related Companies, Laurie McCauley, U-M provost, Geoff Chatas, U-M chief financial officer, and Lisa Phillips, principal, Cass Tech High School.

“It’s a public-private undertaking like this with so many who’ve made investments to realize this opportunity right here in the heart of the city of Detroit,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said. “A city that is on the rise. And this will add one more opportunity for Detroiters, for future Wolverines, for our economy and for this beautiful state we all call home.”

Stephen Ross, a Detroit native and U-M alum, has championed bringing the UMCI to the city for nearly five years. “It will grow downtown Detroit, and reverberate throughout the city and state attracting jobs and people who see the opportunities in Detroit,” Ross said.

The UMCI joins a robust live, work, play and learn district that is home to world-class sports & entertainment venues, professional sports teams including the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, Little Caesars world headquarters, Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University and Detroit Public School Community District’s Cass Technical High School.  

“The University of Michigan Innovation Center is laying the foundation for a brighter future and where innovation knows no bounds in education, it is a gateway to endless possibilities. We extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who continue to make this partnership a reality, made this collaboration to be a source of inspiration and empowerment for generations” said Lisa Philips, Principal of Cass Technical High School.

Through catalytic developments, innovative design and construction, and inclusive placemaking, Olympia Development continues to create jobs, produce needed housing, increase tax base, and grow businesses in Detroit while steadily creating one of the world’s most dynamic destinations, The District Detroit. Olympia Development of Michigan, a proud member of Ilitch companies, is a real estate development firm dedicated to improving the lives of people who live, work, and play in Detroit and beyond.

Center to Spur Economic Growth, Educational Enrichment in Detroit Article

University of Michigan Recap Video

City of Detroit Full Ceremony Video