Ross considers District Detroit for Detroit Center for Innovation

Detroit — Real estate billionaire Stephen Ross is in talks with Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, about building the Detroit Center for Innovation within District Detroit, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

As first reported by the Detroit Free Press, Ross is looking at District Detroit for the home of the research and education center anchored by the University of Michigan.

District Detroit is composed of Ilitch-owned properties around Little Caesars Arena, which the family also owns, along with the Detroit Red Wings hockey team that plays there.

The development comes after Ross and Dan Gilbert's Bedrock announced Wednesday that the Detroit Center for Innovation would not be built on the 14-acre Gratiot site where the failed, half-built Wayne County jail once stood.

Ross said his Related Companies would seek a different location in Detroit.

It is unclear what the size and scope of the project will be in the new location. Ross said Wednesday that the project needed “more space to ensure that we deliver” than what was available at the Gilbert-owned site.

Related Companies declined to comment Thursday.

For subscribers:Ross, Gilbert part ways on failed jail site: 'There are going to be options for them,' experts say

More:Entity linked to Stephen Ross plans development in District Detroit

District Detroit is composed of Ilitch-owned properties around Little Caesars Arena, which the family also owns, along with the Detroit Red Wings hockey team that plays there. Ilitch Holdings has faced criticism for relying on tax subsidies, missing deadlines and holding on to blocks of empty land within the 50-block district.

Representatives for Ilitch Holdings and Olympia Entertainment did not return calls seeking comment. 

If the project comes to fruition within District Detroit, it could be within walking distance of a multifamily residential or mixed-use development Ross has planned at Charlotte Street and Third Avenue.

The Detroit City Council agreed June 29 to the sale of five city-owned parcels to Third and Charlotte Limited Dividend Housing Association LLC for $500,000. The entity is linked to two Related Companies executives.

That development will be a multifamily residential or mixed-use development with 75 rental units, tenant common areas and surface parking, according to a letter from the city's Planning and Development Department to the council last month.

More:Detroit's former jail site: A decade of unfulfilled projects

Ross' departure from the planned development at the Gratiot site marked the latest project to fall through there.

In late 2019, Ross and Bedrock had announced a $300 million plan for the Detroit Center for Innovation on the 14-acre site of the failed Wayne County Jail project, with Ross committing $100 million for the center.

With Ross' departure, Bedrock said Wednesday it would develop a comprehensive Innovation District on the site. No timeline was provided.

The property originally was to be used for a $220 million, 2,000-bed Wayne County jail. Construction began in 2011 but halted in 2013 because of $100 million in cost overruns.

Gilbert, who owns the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, in 2016 had hopes of bringing a Major League Soccer franchise and 25,000-seat stadium to the site, but Detroit's bid for a MLS franchise has not come to fruition.

In a 2018 land swap with the city and Wayne County, Rock Ventures received the site of the half-built jail in exchange for developing a new criminal justice center near Interstate 75 and Warren. 

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.

Cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN