Feb 2, 2024 - News

The Kresge Foundation turns 100

Illustration of party balloons made out of dollar bills.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Kresge Foundation is celebrating its centennial with a series of educational and civic events beginning in the spring to highlight both its accomplishments and goals to continue Detroit's upward trajectory.

Why it matters: With nearly $4 billion in assets, Kresge is the region's largest foundation and one of the country's oldest.

  • Its contributions have underpinned a range of notable improvements and endeavors — from the riverfront's Dequindre Cut to the Grand Bargain rescue plan that helped pull the city out of bankruptcy.

What they're saying: "The civic ecology of Detroit depends on philanthropy," Kresge president and CEO Rip Rapson tells Axios.

Flashback: Retail magnate Sebastian Spering Kresge established the foundation here in 1924 with a focus on opening doors for ambitious, everyday people to get an education, improve their communities, pursue the arts and improve racial equity.

  • Kresge, now headquartered in Troy, has awarded $5.1 billion in grants since its founding, including more than $1 billion in Detroit.

State of play: As part of its centennial celebration, Kresge is partnering with the Detroit Historical Society for programming about its impact on cities across the country.

  • The Detroit Historical Museum will feature a Kresge-themed exhibit this spring.
  • Starting in April, Kresge will host a series of community development events emphasizing climate change, transit, education and other topics.
A placard that says "The Kresge Foundation" in front of a couple white and grey stone buildings with green grass in front.
Kresge's headquarters in Troy. Photo: Courtesy of the Kresge Foundation

The big picture: The impact of Kresge's contributions in recent years can be seen throughout the city.

  • The riverwalk and Dequindre Cut received more than $51 million in Kresge grants between 2002 and 2017.
  • The transformation of Marygrove College's campus into a cradle-to-career education center was made possible by a nearly $100 million gift beginning in 2018.
  • And the foundation contributed $100 million to the Grand Bargain, an $800 million deal that made the city's 2014 bankruptcy exit possible with money from the state, foundations and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

What's next: The centennial celebration begins in earnest on May 4 when the Kresge exhibit opens at the Detroit Historical Museum. It runs through January 2025.


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