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June 13, 2023

Endowment fund becomes majority investor in historic Fisher Building in Detroit

Michigan State University’s investment today in one of Detroit’s most historic and iconic buildings, the Fisher Building, adds another splash of green to the Motor City skyline. 

The university anticipates supporting an array of educational, administrative and community-facing functions within the building, while the MSU Research Foundation plans to open a start-up incubator inside the Fisher Building later this year. 

“For decades, MSU has been working with partners in Detroit to support economic development, advance the arts, transform schools, improve health and sustain the environment,” said Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “Our collective presence in the Motor City yields $317 million of economic impact for the region and, more importantly, our partnerships and collaborations throughout the region improve the lives of Detroiters and Michiganders alike. This new investment signals our continued intent to be part of Detroit’s storied history and vibrancy.”

The announcement follows MSU’s recent investment, through its endowment fund, in The Platform’s Piquette Flats affordable housing/adaptive reuse project as well as nearby developments announced in conjunction with MSU’s partnership with Henry Ford Health. It also complements MSU’s growing presence in the automobile capital of the world.

“The Fisher Building assemblage is the MSU endowment’s second joint venture investment in Detroit. The first was the Piquette Flats affordable housing project, which was made public last month. While both Piquette Flats and the Fisher Building are independent of developments recently announced by the partnership among MSU, Henry Ford Health and the Detroit Pistons, they are positioned to benefit from long-term growth catalyzed by that partnership’s transformative plans for the New Center neighborhood,” said Philip Zecher, MSU’s chief investment officer. 

Designed by legendary architect Albert Kahn in 1928, the 635,000-square-foot building is a National Historic Landmark and considered “Detroit’s largest art object” for its marble exterior, three-story arcade with hand-painted barrel-vaulted ceiling, spectacular mosaics and extensive brass detailing. 

One of the most recognizable buildings on Detroit’s skyline, the often proclaimed “Golden Tower of the Fisher Building” will be illuminated green for a week to commemorate the occasion. 

In addition to this investment, MSU sponsors hundreds of programs and projects in Detroit including food security resources through MSU Extension; K-12 music and career-path outreach programming; educating leaders on safeguarding our state’s most precious natural resource, freshwater; and a renowned urban agricultural center on nearly 3.5 acres focusing research and outreach on the needs of Detroit residents.

The university also has several flagship partnerships within the city.  

In February, the university announced it would start the planning for a new state-of-the-art research facility in downtown Detroit as part of the Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences 30-year partnership. The facility is part of the $2.5 billion expansion in Detroit by MSU and its partners Henry Ford Health and the Detroit Pistons.

“Being headquartered in Detroit, just steps away from the iconic Fisher Building, we know what a beautifully important asset it is to our community,” said Bob Riney, President and CEO, Henry Ford Health. “On the heels of announcing our most transformative project ever in Detroit – the reimagination of our healthcare campus alongside our partners – this continues to be a powerful demonstration of our collective commitment to this great city.”

Additionally, MSU will soon graduate its second cohort of the nation’s only Apple Developer Academy in North America. The program is a partnership between Apple and MSU and is designed for Detroiters and focuses on cultivating the next generation of app developers and entrepreneurs. 

By: Mark Bullion

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