DETROIT — It’s a new day for Ford Motor Co. The automaker has purchased the Michigan Central Train Depot in Corktown. It will move 2,500 employees here to work on electric and autonomous (self-driving) vehicles.
The 18-story building features lots of graffiti and is crumbling on the inside. Ford expects to have the building completely renovated by 2022. The automaker hopes the redevelopment of the building will attract engineers and other startup companies to Corktown.
“Today, the Michigan Central Train Station has a new owner, Ford Motor Company,” exclaimed Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company. “It’s a building that, in many ways, tells the story of our city over the past century.” He said the train station will propel the automaker into the future.
Ford’s purchase of the building, from the Moroun family, serves as a homecoming for the automaker that once founded its business in Detroit. It is not yet known how much Ford paid for it.
“What Rouge was to Ford in the industrial age, Corktown will be for Ford in the information age,” said Ford CEO Jim Hackett. “In fact, think of this as a new kind of Rouge. A parallel pathway to build out our business alongside the future of Dearborn. Right here, we have the talent to prepare us for the information age combined with our century-plus expertise of vehicle development and manufacturing just located seven miles west of here.”
Detroit based rapper Big Sean performed during the big celebration on Tuesday morning. Other musical performances included the Detroit Children’s Choir and Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith.
“It will be wonderful to see this thriving and vibrant with thousands of people working here,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R). “It’s great that Detroiters are finding wonderful career opportunities. As they talked about the future of their mobility efforts being here, it is something that has the opportunity, not just to transform Detroit, not just transform Michigan, but to transform the world. Mobility is going to change our society in every nation in this world.”
Ford hopes to keep the first floor open to the public year round. It will include a coffee shop, retail space and other restaurants. The automaker might even show off some of its vehicles there too.
“You had international newspapers came here and wrote about the train station,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan continued, “The message in all of it was this: ‘The train station is dead and Detroit is dead.’ Who would have imagined that within 10 years, this site would be the center of 5,000 new employees coming back to the city and being the center of Ford’s strategic direction on mobility. Isn’t it remarkable?”
The former train station opened in 1913 and provided service up until 1988 when the last train left the station for Chicago. It remained vacant for most of the last 30 years with the exception for a few movie shoots such as “8 Mile” and “Transformers.”
Attendee Marcella Poyhonen from Taylor, Mich. was at the community celebration and said she’s excited to see the building have a new life.
“My whole life I’ve watched this building sit here idle,” she explained. “I’m so happy to see them do something with it. Now, if they could start doing something with all of these churches. Yeah, you can’t get this kind of history out west. I’m back and I’m loving it.”
Meanwhile, an anonymous individual returned a giant clock that once adorned the Michigan Central Train Depot. The folks at Ford were taken by surprise and are very thankful.
“We are super excited to have a relic from the old building actually be returned,” said Roger Gaudette, executive director of Detroit development at Ford Land. “It would really be nice if we even got more pieces. The clock itself was a portion that would go on the exterior of the building. It was brought back by somebody who had taken it and thought that it needed to come back home.”
The History Channel will air an original documentary special, “Detroit: Comeback City,” that will recount the saga of the rise, fall and rebirth of Detroit through the iconic Michigan Central Station. Watch the premiere at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 1.
“This is awesome for Detroit and Wayne county,” said county executive Warren Evans. “The jail coming down that’s been the eyesore. Coming this way to see this iconic building be saved and restored. The evolution of Ford’s next generation. Ford sees the change and its right in front of it. The Michigan Avenue corridor in my mind is the one that needs help more than others. Great things will come as a result of this. I’m ecstatic that we’re doing this. This governor and his mayor have been team players on so many projects. That’s the wow factor that you don’t see everyday.”
The public will have a unique opportunity to tour the building this weekend June 22-24 for free. This free event features an exhibit, produced in collaboration with the Detroit Historical Society plus a variety of interactive activities, including a Ford STEAM Lab and live mural making by local graffiti artists Fel3000ft and Shades. Interested individuals need to RSVP at https://fordmcsopenhouse.splashthat.com/