- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - Auto parts supplier Lear Corp. plans to create an innovation and design center in downtown Detroit.

Lear announced Monday that it bought a six-story, 35,000-square-foot building from Bedrock Real Estate Services in a transfer that marks Bedrock’s first building sale after a succession of Detroit purchases. Officials did not release the sale price of the building.

It was one of many downtown properties owned by companies tied to businessman Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of online mortgage lender Quicken Loans. Gilbert is also a founding partner of Bedrock and owns the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team.

Lear said it will turn the 1887 building, which originally housed Brown Brothers Cigar Manufacturers, into a hub for art, creativity, automotive advanced concept development and hands-on learning for Detroit college students. The Innovation and Design Center also will house a non-automotive new business incubator, a think tank and Lear executive satellite offices.

“We plan to leverage the rapidly developing infrastructure in the central business district, as well as the concentration of arts, science and technology assets in the Capitol Park area to take our seating and electrical businesses to the next level,” Lear President and Chief Executive Matt Simoncini said.

The company will collaborate with students and faculty at the College for Creative Studies and Wayne State University’s Engineering school.

Lear’s project “fits perfectly in the up-and-coming Capitol Park district and with all that is happening in downtown Detroit,” Gilbert said.

The announcement comes as online retailer Amazon is opening a corporate office in Detroit and plans to expand early next year. Seattle-based Amazon says it has about 100 employees at the Detroit office with roles including software development, engineering and advertising sales. Amazon says the office will mean more full-time technology-focused jobs, but the company didn’t say how many.

Since emerging in December from the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy in history, Detroit has been working to restructure and improve services to residents, businesses and visitors. Downtown has been leading the city’s comeback, and Gilbert has been active in that resurgence.

Five years ago, Gilbert moved Quicken Loans’ headquarters and 1,700 workers downtown. The number of employees in Gilbert’s family of companies has grown to more than 13,000.

“Detroit is returning to its roots as a leader in manufacturing innovation,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “Lear’s decision to locate this new hub in Capitol Park is another in a series of recent similar investments in our city.”

The project is expected to be completed sometime next year. Lear is based north of Detroit in Southfield.

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