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‘Fail jail’ site could see U-M facility developed by Stephen Ross, Dan Gilbert

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Anonymous sources said it would house a ‘Detroit innovation center’

The half-finished Wayne County jail was demolished in 2018
Michelle & Chris Gerard

Ever since Wayne County scrapped its plans mid-construction to build a $520 million jail on Gratiot Avenue, the ‘fail jail,’ as it’s known locally, has been a black eye for the city.

Rock Ventures bought the half-finished building, and there’s been constant speculation about what owner Dan Gilbert would build there. For a time, it seemed like he might attract an MLS team to Detroit and construct a stadium. Then there were plans for a $533 million mixed-use development.

Now the latest speculation is that Gilbert is in talks with Stephen Ross and the University of Michigan to build a ‘Detroit innovation center,’ Crain’s Detroit Business reports. Anonymous sources told Crain’s that the building would be a kind of research and development facility for manufacturing. No other details were released.

The site itself is 15 acres and the half-finished jail was demolished summer 2018.

The article points to other clues suggesting this kind of development.

For U-M, the Gratiot site is envisioned to mirror Cornell University’s Cornell Tech urban campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City, according to two sources familiar with the plans. Ross’ real estate development firm, Related Cos., was one of the developers that constructed Cornell Tech’s first residential building on Roosevelt Island, a narrow island in New York’s East River nestled between Manhattan Island and the Queens borough.

A native of Detroit who has donated more than $300 million of his wealth to UM, Ross has expressed past interest in doing a real estate project in the city.

President Mark Schlissel has also said he wants U-M to be more active in Detroit, and Ross was spotted in the city recently.

So far it’s all speculation, but if true, it certainly would be an intriguing development.

Fail Jail

Gratiot at St Antoine, Detroit, MI