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Detroit Announces 'Innovation District' For Greater Downtown Area

By Edward Cardenas

DETROIT ( – A coalition of business, community and elected officials announced Thursday the creation of an Innovation District in the greater downtown area of Detroit.

The announcement at Tech Town brings together leaders and officials along the Woodward corridor from the river to the New Center area to create the infrastructure to support existing and new business, expand marketing efforts and create new and innovative zoning and land use in the district.

"(The district) allows you, in a very aggressive way, to interconnect your entrepreneurials, your scientists, your artists, your educators and connect them all together and say to anyone looking to come to this area 'if you want to be a start-up and want be in an area connected with a whole lot of other entrepreneurs, this is where you come," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Similar districts are found in cities such St. Louis, Atlanta, Cambridge and Barcelona.

"There is only one place in this region where you have Henry Ford, Wayne State, Detroit Medical campus, College for Creative Studies, all essentially in walking and biking distance," said Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brooking Institution.

He sees bringing together the separate entities together for a common effort as a positive for the district, and the city as a whole.

"When you have that type of collaboration and synergy, there is going to be unanticipated discoveries from the market, innovation breakthroughs and some real interesting efforts on educations and skills so you can begin to bring residents from adjoining neighborhoods into this economy."

Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Nancy Schlichting will be the chair of a 17-person advisory committee that will develop the framework and plans for the district.

"We have to make sure we are listening to people in the community, understanding the different points of view of what this could mean, and how we can best support the existing entrepreneurial and innovative work that is going on," said Schlichting. "We don't want to try to interrupt it. We don't want to interfere and we want to lift it up and create more networking, more collaboration and potentially accelerating the pace of change."

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