University of Michigan board member Denise Ilitch has withdrawn from any conversation about a possible partnership between UM, megadonator Stephen Ross and the family business, Ilitch Holdings, on the location of a Detroit Center for Innovation.
âAs an elected official, charged by the voters of Michigan with the governance of our public university, my primary responsibility is to uphold my oath and serve the people of our state, putting their best interests first. As Regent since 2009, I have prioritized transparency and public disclosure at every opportunity, âIlitch said in a statement she provided to Free Press.
Crain’s Detroit Business was the first to report the statement.
âOn July 2, 2021, I learned for the first time from someone outside the university that the university was in development talks with my family’s business. In the midst of utter surprise, I immediately informed my colleagues on the board of directors of the situation. Unfortunately, they weren’t aware of it either. On that day, I informed my colleagues on the Board of Directors, as well as the President, that I would be stepping down from this situation, as it poses an inherent conflict. I have withdrawn from any discussion of a potential new site for the Detroit Center for Innovation and ultimately voting on anything to do with this project. “
The DCI was announced in 2019 with great fanfare. It was to be built by Ross and Dan Gilbert and house a UM campus in Detroit on the site of the failed Wayne County jail on Wednesday. It was canceled early Wednesday.
But Christopher Ilitch negotiated with Ross to move the project, which was to include a campus for the University of Michigan, to land behind the Fox Theater, several sources familiar with the conversations told Free Press. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media. Details of the exact location have yet to be finalized. The Free Press was the first to report the involvement of the Ilitch companies in the talks.
After:Sources: Ilitch in talks to replace Gilbert on the Detroit Center for Innovation project
After:Gilbert and Ross ditch plan for UM innovation center at failing Detroit prison site
Denise Ilitch, former president of Ilitch Holdings Inc., no longer has a role in the day-to-day operations of the family business.
Discussions between Ross, UM and Christopher Ilitch have been going on for months, sources told Free Press, without the knowledge of UM’s board of directors.
The Ilitch family owns much of the property in the Detroit district around the Fox Theater, Comerica Park, and Little Caesars Arena. Ross’s Related Cos. is related to a limited liability company that recently received Detroit City Council approval to purchase five city-owned plots of land in the Ilitch family’s Little Caesars Arena neighborhood for $ 500,000 to build a residential development with around 75 rental apartments. The plots are at 676 and 708 Charlotte St. and 3126, 3136 and 3154 Third Ave.
The more than $ 300 million innovation center, announced in October 2019, was to visit the 14-acre âchess prisonâ site off the coast of Gratiot at 1400 rue Saint-Antoine. The land is owned by real estate firm Gilbert’s Bedrock, which was to build the innovation center in partnership with Ross’ Related Companies. Construction was scheduled to begin this year with an opening scheduled for 2023.
In a statement on Wednesday, Ross said they still plan to build the Innovation Center for UM, but at a different location in Detroit. The statement did not identify any potential new locations.
“The pandemic illustrated the need for the Detroit Center for Innovation to have a greater catalytic economic and social impact on the people of Detroit, which was not possible at its current location,” Ross said in a statement regarding cancellation of the project at the prison site.
âI am more determined than ever to deliver my vision for an innovation hub in my hometown, and I reaffirm my commitment to the people of Detroit and the University of Michigan to create inclusive growth that propels the creation of jobs, affordable housing development and historic preservation for all residents of Detroit. We plan to move the DCI to a new location in the city with more space to make sure we deliver.
A representative from UM said the university remained committed to Detroit and that its president and regents “would discuss possible avenues to be pursued with Related and Stephen Ross in the coming months.”
Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj. Subscribe to Detroit Free Press.