Work starts on Mike Ilitch School of Business

Ian Thibodeau and Louis Aguilar,

Wayne State University officially broke ground on the $50 million Mike Ilitch School of Business on Wednesday, the first of what is expected to be a series of new developments around the future Little Caesars Arena.

The final conceptual rendering of the Mike Ilitch School of Business.

New renderings show a design much different from initial designs released last fall. The school, paid for largely by a $40 million donation from Detroit business moguls Mike and Marian Ilitch, will have a glass facade and what the university’s president calls “an open and smart design that evokes energy.”

The school will open in 2018 at the corner of Woodward and Temple, two blocks north of the $627 million, 20,000-seat Little Caesars Arena the Ilitch camp expects to complete in 2017. It’s less than a mile from their recently announced Little Caesars Global Resource Center on Woodward, where construction is expected to begin soon.

It’s the first ancillary development around the arena site, located in what’s been dubbed “The District Detroit” by Olympia Development of Michigan. Other development is anticipated. In February, Olympia unveiled plans for a new hotel, about 150 residential units, retail, offices, and a parking garage that will be built adjacent to the arena.

Further, Olympia is exploring building student housing near the Ilitch business school. And the Detroit Medical Center is in talks with Olympia about a new sports medicine building near the new arena and business school.

“Not long into the future, this same site will be a thriving center for students and faculty who are hungry to make a difference,” Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said Wednesday. “This will be no ivory tower. This will be a beautiful and accessible gateway connecting Midtown and downtown Detroit.”

Speaking Wednesday, Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., called the new school a significant addition to higher education in Detroit.

“Projects like these are the visible examples of our city’s resurgence,” Ilitch said. “Big wins and small accomplishments and everything in between are coming together at the right place and the right times ... they continue to move our city forward.”

His parents, Mike and Marian, were not in attendance Wednesday. Chris said the new school is a “milestone” in his parents’ legacy.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan applauded the impact the Ilitches have had on the city. Before Dan Gilbert and all the other investors the city has seen of late, Mike and Marian Ilitch invested in Detroit.

“More than 25 years ago, it was the Ilitch family,” Duggan said. The city would have been a lot different if the Ilitch family hadn’t set up their Little Caesars headquarters downtown.

In October, Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers and co-founder of Little Caesars Pizza, donated $35 million to help build the school, along with a $5 million endowment to Wayne State University. The university expects to raise additional money for the school through gifts. Any remaining balance will be covered through a university bond issue.

The school is the first to be built from the ground-up outside Wayne State’s main Midtown campus.

The 120,000-square-foot Mike Ilitch School of Business will serve more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The school is expected to open new opportunities for students, with master’s degrees focusing on sports- and entertainment-related industries.

Wayne State and Olympia Development of Michigan, the development arm of the Ilitch family, announced Wednesday that Detroit-based contractors Christman-Brinker will be the construction manager. Detroit-based architecture firm Smith Group JJR designed the school.

Renderings of the future Mike Ilitch School of Business, Wayne State University, next to the Red Wings Arena, labeled Detroit Events Center in this artist rendering.

Speaking Wednesday, Chris Ilitch said 90 percent of contracts on the arena project have been awarded to Michigan companies, calling the arena Detroit-built and Michigan-made.

The Wayne State business school and the Little Caesars Arena are part of the Ilitch family’s quest to transform 50 city blocks into dense, walkable areas filled with housing, retail, offices and entertainment. Many of those streets are now marked by vacant properties, some of which are owned by entities linked to the Ilitches’ Olympia Development of Michigan.

The Ilitches have committed to invest at least another $200 million for other developments in the 45-block district. The entire project has an estimated projected economic benefit of $1.8 billion.

While the Ilitches’ Olympia Development of Michigan continues to buy property in the 50-block area, most of the development plans remain unknown.


Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau