Regents approve design, authorize construction for UMCI in Detroit

The Board of Regents has approved the schematic design for the University of Michigan Center for Innovation in Detroit, a six-story building expected to open in spring 2027.

The lower floors of the building will contain public-facing programs while the upper floors will be dedicated mostly to graduate programs. The building broke ground in December and preliminary site work has been ongoing.

“The UMCI is a catalyst for positive change and, as such, presents itself along Grand River Avenue as a ‘Gateway for Innovation,'” said Hana Kassem, design principal for the architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox.

“It proudly bears the University of Michigan spirit focusing on progress and inclusivity which is embodied in its dynamic forward-leaning form and the portal that cuts through it, inviting access to all. Its transparent facade at street level engages the passerby, showcasing innovation, by putting making and research on display.”

This artist’s rendering shows an exterior view of the U-M Center for Innovation in Detroit
This artist’s rendering shows an exterior view of the U-M Center for Innovation in Detroit. (Drawing courtesy of Kohn Pedersen Fox)

The action at the regents’ March 28 meeting also authorized the university to proceed with construction, provided that bids are within the project’s $250 million budget.

The first two floors will house public programs, a cafe and shared office space for the U-M Detroit Center, Admissions Office, the School for Environment and Sustainability’s Sustainability Clinic and others, while levels three through six are planned for multidisciplinary graduate research.

Included within the building is shelled space that will provide flexibility and expansion opportunities in the future.

This drawing shows the atrium within the UMCI.
This drawing shows the atrium within the UMCI. (Drawing courtesy of Kohn Pedersen Fox)

The project broke ground in December at the intersection of Grand River Avenue and West Columbia Street. Construction is scheduled to be completed in spring 2027.

The proposed 200,000-gross-square-foot building will be the first of three buildings to be constructed on the site. The other two buildings — an incubator space and a residential building — are to be constructed by a developer at a future date.

UMCI will be a world-class research, education and entrepreneurship center designed to advance innovation and talent-focused community development to propel city, region and statewide job creation and inclusive economic growth by stimulating economic development in Detroit.

Programming at the innovation center will offer a mixed-model approach that includes both master’s degree and workforce development programs that will focus on technology and innovation.

An aerial view of the UMCI (foreground) in downtown Detroit.
An aerial view of the UMCI (foreground) in downtown Detroit. (Drawing courtesy of Kohn Pedersen Fox)

“UMCI will bring together the best of the University of Michigan to catalyze economic development in the city of Detroit,” said Provost Laurie McCauley. “It will house a robust portfolio of academic programs, including new interdisciplinary graduate degrees and certificate programs aligned to the skills of the future needed to attract startups as well as major employers to the region.

“UMCI will also host a multitude of community engagement activities for the residents of Detroit, ranging from K-12 programs like the Michigan Engineering Zone to the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project and many more.”

Last fall, the regents approved agreements related to land donation and purchases from Olympia Development, and a $100 million gift from donor Stephen M. Ross. The project also received a $100 million grant from the state of Michigan.

An additional $50 million will be raised from donors, said Geoffrey Chatas, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

The center, along with the P-20 Partnership at the School at Marygrove, the $40 million Rackham building renovation, the U-M Detroit Center, which opened in 2005 in Midtown, and hundreds of other projects U-M works on with community partners around the city, are examples of how the university has stepped up its community engagement in Detroit in recent years.

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