Ford to Restore Mich. Central Station 06/17 10:43
DETROIT (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. plans to release details of its planned
conversion of the long-vacant Michigan Central train station just west of
downtown Detroit. The Dearborn-based automaker recently bought the 105-year-old
building and is expected to redevelop the 500,000-square-foot
(46,000-square-meter) structure as part of its plans for a campus focusing on
The station, which looms over Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, has stood
empty since the last train left in 1988 . Stripped by vandals and time of its
past beauty and value, the building came to symbolize Detroit's long decline
from manufacturing powerhouse to bankruptcy.
Michigan Central Railroad started purchasing land around 1908 for the new
train station, according to HistoricDetroit.org. The depot opened in late 1913
and was designed by the same architects who created New York's Grand Central
Terminal. With towering pillars, marble floors, chandeliers and high-arching
windows, the terminal's passenger waiting room was a sight to behold. Detroit
architectural historian W. Hawkins Ferry wrote that in its heyday, the train
station "symbolized the gateway to the city of Detroit and reminded people of
the Roman Baths of Caracalla."
OBSOLETE TO ALBATROSS
The emergence of interstates and increased travel by car and plane led to
fewer people taking trains. In 1985, the station handled only 82,408
passengers. That number tumbled to 64,097 a year later. Great Lakes World Trade
Center bought the station and office tower in 1985 and developers planned to
turn it and some adjacent real estate into offices, shopping plazas and parks
that would attract development. The federal government withdrew a $3.25 million
grant in 1987 because insufficient renovation progress was being made, and the
station shut down the following year. After it closed, anything valuable was
stolen or destroyed and the building became a popular spot for squatters,
vagrants and urban explorers.
Businessman Manuel "Matty" Moroun bought the building in the mid-1990s after
a previous owner defaulted on a loan. Moroun's interest in rail and trucking
transport led to the purchase, a spokesman said at the time. But an anchor
tenant could not be found and renovations would be delayed. Many looked at the
former grand structure as part of the blight spreading across parts of Detroit.
Plans by the city to buy the station and turn it into a police headquarters
fell through. In 2009, the City Council passed a resolution seeking emergency
demolition of the structure, but it didn't happen. Some renovation work was
done shortly thereafter, including the replacement of broken windows and the
roof, to make it less of an eyesore.
THE BLUE OVAL
Ford announced last year that it was going to move its autonomous and
electric vehicle business and strategy teams to Corktown. In addition to the
train station, Ford owns several other neighborhood properties that will be
renovated and rehabbed. The company already has started moving about 200
workers into a refurbished former factory a few blocks from the station. The
automaker estimates the size of its campus at about 1.2 million square feet.
The station and office tower is expected to anchor the automaker's research and
development of self-driving vehicles. It also gives Ford a presence in Detroit
which continues to rebound after exiting bankruptcy in 2014.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR DETROIT
Ford's ownership of the Michigan Central station means more to the city than
just the redevelopment of another eyesore. It is expected to bring thousands of
tech-related workers into the downtown area and to spur the grown of Corktown,
which is among the city's neighborhoods that have become trendy in recent years.