Michigan Central Station, a hulking ruin, is a 230-foot-tall symbol of urban decline a stone's throw away from Downtown Detroit. Now, though, Ford Motor Company is in talks to buy the abandoned station from its owners, the Moroun family. As soon as April, the Dearborn, Michigan–based automaker could ink a deal that would transform the 500,000-square-foot train station in the city's Corktown neighborhood into—well, it's not really clear at this time. In the past, Ford leadership said that expanding their workforce in Detroit, historically a home base for the company, is part of a strategy to attract and retain younger talent, many of whom want to live in cities. The news comes as Ford is moving around 200 workers to a facility down the street; those familiar with the just-announced deal say 1,000 or more workers could fit inside a transformed Michigan Central Station. "At this time, Ford is focused on locating our autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle business and strategy teams, including Team Edison, to The Factory in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood," Ford spokesman Said Deep told Crain's, which first reported the story. "While we anticipate our presence over time will grow as our (autonomous/electric vehicle) teams begin moving downtown in May, we have nothing further to announce at this time." Amtrak stopped running trains through the station in 1988, and since then, the Michigan Avenue building has served as a low-hanging symbol of Detroit's deindustrialization. Alongside countless ruins tourists on Flickr, artists like Camilo José Vergara and Andrew Moore have extensively documented the decline of the station and the surrounding city. Recently, though, the Moroun family has brought the space back to life, somewhat. Last summer, they opened the building to a Crain's-produced event for investors interested in the city, and they've spent $8 million on window replacement and structural upgrades in the past three years. If Ford drives the station deal home, it would not be the automaker's only major investment in its Michigan physical assets. Ford is in the midst of a ten-year, $1.2-billion overhaul of its neighboring Dearborn campus, with the help of architects at SmithGroupJJR.
Snøhetta to design Ford’s research campuses in Detroit and Dearborn, including Michigan Central Station
It’s no secret that Detroit, Michigan, is in the midst of a downtown revival after the city’s financial downfall and historic bankruptcy in 2013. The new Detroit is flourishing with new restaurants, artist spaces, small business incubators, and investment from large corporations that are pulling people back into the city. In the latest development of Detroit’s comeback, Snøhetta will be collaborating with Ford Motor Company to re-envision and design the car company’s headquarters and campuses in both Dearborn and Detroit. Ford started its upgrade back in 2016 with plans to overhaul its existing facilities in Dearborn, the original headquarters. With the Dearborn redevelopment still on track, Ford also recently acquired a new site in its expansion: Michigan Central Station in Corktown, one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods. The conceptual designs for both are being led by Snøhetta, who was chosen as lead Design Architect. Ford recently bought the Michigan Central Station, a Beaux-Arts icon that represents Detroit’s urban decline, with plans to restore and redevelop the decrepit train station. It will now serve as the central hub of the planned corporate campus in Corktown, serving both Ford employees and the general public with workspaces, restaurants, retail, and housing. The campus will also serve as an innovation hub for the future of transportation, researching urban mobility solutions including smart vehicles, roads, parking, public transit, and autonomous and electric vehicles. The new buildings and public spaces will be formulated in collaboration with the Corktown community and city officials. Ford is one of many car companies looking to the future. With the rise of automated vehicles and increased technological capabilities, car companies are doing more than just producing cars. Ford, with the creation of its new research campuses, plans to implement the first City of Tomorrow study in Corktown, envisioning the future of mobility and rethinking existing cities. “We at Ford want to help write the next chapter, working together in Corktown with the best startups, the smartest talent and the thinkers, engineers and problem-solvers who see things differently—all to shape the future of mobility and transportation,” Chairman Bill Ford said at the celebration of Ford’s purchase of the Michigan Central Station, as reported in Detroit Free Press. Design and community engagement processes for the Corktown campus are just in the beginning stages, while the Dearborn campus conceptual design is expected to be completed by the end of the year.