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DETROIT-A collaboration between the College for Creative Studies and the Henry Ford Learning Institute has formally begun accepting students to attend the Open Henry Ford Academy, which will occupy a few floors of the 760,000-square-foot Argonaut Building in the New Center area of Downtown. Former building owner General Motors donated the 11-story building this summer to the college, which is now engrossed in a $145 million renovation project in the 82-year-old facility.

The college will occupy about 60% of the building with administrative offices, the charter school will take about 30% and a little more than 10% will be leased out to now-unnamed businesses and non-profit agencies. The building, one of GM’s first design centers, has been gutted for the installation of modern equipment. Larson Realty Group, Jones Lang LaSalle and Preservation Development make up the team working on the project.

The institute, which has another charter school in Dearborn, expects to host more than 400 students starting in September at the building. Richard Rogers, president of the college, says the institute has high expectations for the students. Since 1997, more than 90% of the students who have attended the institute’s Dearborn school have graduated, a higher rate than most school districts that surround Detroit. Every graduating student in the past two years has been accepted to a university.

“(The new school) is part of a dramatic new vision for the College for Creative Studies that will enhance the college’s value as a significant community resource, a provider of career opportunity and an engine for the development of a creative economy in the region and the continuing renewal of the city,” Rogers said in a statement.

Charter schools have sprung up in many locations throughout metropolitan Detroit, being built on greenfields in the suburbs and locating in former office buildings in the city. Robert Thompson, a local businessman and philanthropist, donated $19 million to help redo the Argonaut for the school. He’s one of the biggest supporters for creating new schools in Detroit, though he backed away from a plan earlier this decade to invest $200 million in such facilities, after public school supporter outcry. Since then, he has been quietly funding more charter schools in the Detroit area.

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