World Economic Forum to Establish Global Centre for Urban Transformation in Detroit

19 Aug 2021

· Leaders from Detroit and around the world call for increased public-private collaboration to address the growing challenges facing cities

· The new Centre will mobilize the global business community and key stakeholders to support cities as they chart a course for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

· Detroit will serve as the Centre’s global headquarters, providing a model for more inclusive and sustainable urban development

· Media and city leaders can sign up to receive updates and invitations to launch events hosted by the World Economic Forum in October at:

Detroit, 19 August 2021 – The World Economic Forum today announced plans to establish a new global Centre for Urban Transformation headquartered in Detroit. The Centre seeks to increase public-private collaboration in cities and advance more inclusive and sustainable models for urban development.

“Around the globe, cities are facing unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 to climate change, exposing deep systemic inequities,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of Urban Transformation, World Economic Forum. “As we chart a course towards a more sustainable and equitable future, government cannot carry this burden alone; increased public-private cooperation is essential. Detroit is uniquely positioned to serve as the epicenter for this work – a hub for urban transformation and innovation that the world can look to for guidance and inspiration.”

The World Economic Forum will leverage its global network of leading companies, governments, civil society organizations and academic institutions to support cities as they seek to rebuild their economies and forge more resilient communities. This includes mobilizing the global business community to commit expertise and resources in support of local communities, advancing models for inclusive urban development, and exploring new approaches to expand urban services and economic opportunity in low-income and traditionally marginalized communities.

The Centre will launch in October with a series of events and announcements, showcasing innovative models of urban transformation from around the globe. Bedrock, Detroit’s largest real estate company, will host the Centre’s work in Detroit, providing a testbed to rethink and redefine the benefits and possibilities of urban living. Additional work will be led out of the World Economic Forum’s offices in Beijing, Geneva, Mumbai, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo.

“Bedrock is excited to bring the World Economic Forum and its global platform to Detroit,” said Kofi Bonner, Chief Executive Officer, Bedrock. “This partnership provides an opportunity to showcase Detroit’s extraordinary growth and positions Michigan’s largest city and international border as a global hub for best-in-class thinking on developing a next-generation, inclusive urban economy.”

The Centre for Urban Transformation will base its activities in Bedrock’s downtown Detroit portfolio with future intentions to join the developer’s plans for the Gratiot Site, which will be at the heart of an Innovation District designed to drive economic transformation and create pathways for Detroiters into future high-growth industries.

What leaders are saying about the Centre for Urban Transformation

“By 2030, six out of every ten people in the world are expected to reside in cities,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat. “We need an urgent change in mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization to ensure nobody is left behind. We look forward to working with the World Economic Forum to advance the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 11 to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

“Congratulations to the City of Detroit and thank you to all the people who championed this iconic American city as home of the World Economic Forum Global Centre for Urban Transformation,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Michigan has led the way in bringing together public and private sectors to creatively solve issues from transportation to small business relief for decades and Detroit is the perfect place to leverage that approach to improving urban living worldwide.”

"The World Economic Forum could have chosen any city in the world to locate its global Centre for Urban Transformation, and we are proud they chose Detroit,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “In Detroit, we have always solved major issues and expanded opportunity through innovation and partnership and that is exactly what the Centre for Urban Transformation seeks to do on a global scale. We are thrilled they will be doing it from right here in Detroit."

“Innovation, collaboration, and talent converge in Detroit in ways that change the world, and we are proud to welcome the headquarters of the World Economic Forum Global Centre for Urban Transformation to this great city,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “We have a generational opportunity to address some society’s most significant challenges, from racial inequity, to climate change, to the future of industry and mobility. This announcement puts Detroit at the forefront of what inclusive and sustainable urban development can, and should, look like across the globe.”

“As the world looks to address the defining challenges of today, it should come as no surprise it turns to Detroit,” said Maureen Donohue Krauss, President and CEO, Detroit Regional Partnership. “This news further validates the Detroit Region’s standing as an international business hub with the talent and assets companies need to take on complex problems and thrive. The Center of Urban Transformation will not only succeed here because of everything our regional economy offers, its presence will also strengthen our appeal as a global destination for innovation and investment for our future.”

“The role the private sector has to play in the transition from urban living to human living cannot be overestimated,” said Miguel Eiras Antunes, Global Smart Cities Leader, Deloitte Global. “Deloitte shares the Forum’s belief that COVID-19 offers an unprecedented opportunity to reinvigorate the approach to urban transformation and looks forward to working with the Centre.

"The rethinking of cities can bring about a future of urban living that’s better for all of us,” said Jonathan Hursh, Founding Partner, Utopia. “Public-private partnerships are central to this transformation as these cities find their unique path forward. The Centre will be a critical platform to bring all the pieces together.”

“Building an inclusive economy in Detroit is a priority for the DEGC, and we embrace new partners that are equally committed to creating a major metropolitan city where everyone can thrive,” said Kevin Johnson, President and CEO, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC). “Whether its small business or large corporations, our focus is on overcoming the barriers to access– be it capital, education, real estate or jobs – and support from a global resource like the WEC will create new opportunities for solutions. We are looking forward to working together on advancing Detroit.”

“Tremendous energy is building around the world to build back better – with greater equity, resilience and sustainability,” said Stephen Zoegall, Lead for Global Cities, Transport and Infrastructure, Accenture. “We are excited to continue our collaboration with the Centre and Forum to help convert ambition into reality.”

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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