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Life returns to Michigan Central Station for first time in decades

Midwest Preservation
Michigan Central Station (Albert Duce/Wikimedia Commons)
Michigan Central Station (Albert Duce/Wikimedia Commons)

No building has been used to represent the decline of Detroit more than the Michigan Central Station. Towering over the Corktown neighborhood just south of the city’s downtown, the once bustling train station has lain vacant since the last train pulled away in January 1988. Today the building’s owners, the Moroun family of companies, is hoping the iconic building can become the symbol of the city’s renaissance.

For the first time in decades, a private event will be held in the vacant building. Slated for later this summer and produced by Crain’s Detroit Business, the fourth annual Detroit Homecoming is an event which brings back Detroit “expats” in a bid to bring investment into the city. The event will take over three days, starting on September 13th, and will bring together hundreds of former Detroiters and local business investors. The opening dinner will take place in the grand 53-foot-tall lobby. Tours up to the 13th floor will allow guests to look out over Detroit.

The interior of the Michigan Central Station is filled with ornate spaces, many of which feature Doric columns, vaulted ceilings, and detailed tile work. (Courtesy Albert Duce/Wikimedia Commons)

Opened in 1913, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975, the building has had brushes with restoration as well as demolition over the years. In the mid-2000s the city moved to demolish the building, which led to a lawsuit to protect the building. Designed by Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem, the 230-foot-tall Beaux Arts tower was once the tallest train station in the world. At one point, over 200 trains passed through the station every day and 3,000 office workers worked in the 500,000-square-foot building.

In recent years, restoration has begun on the building. According to the Moroun’s, over $8 million has been spent on asbestos abatement, vandalism cleanup, initial interior work, and other early-stage renovations. Most visible of the changes to the building was the installation of 1,100 new windows in 2015. It is estimated that to complete the restoration will cost over $100 million. And though work has begun, no official word has been given on what the station may become. In the past, ideas have been floated including a convention center, a casino, Michigan State Police headquarters, and Detroit Police headquarters.

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