Ford is buying into a piece of downtrodden Detroit’s comeback story with a sweeping overhaul of the city’s abandoned central train station that hopes to become the anchor of a new transportation and technology center.
For Detroit, it’s the biggest resurrection news to date, and if it actually succeeds in luring high-tech workers to the abandoned city, all those who’ve been banking on a comeback by scooping up real estate for a song in the area will be pleased.
And since Amazon won’t bite on Detroit, having rejected the city’s $4-billion incentives bid for a second headquarters for the e-commerce giant, what better savior than Detroit-native Ford.
Though no one knows what kind of tax incentive Ford might be getting for taking over the Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, some private developers have suggested the project could cost as much as $2 billion.
It’s a massive undertaking considering that it’s been looted to the maximum by both people and Mother Nature, and is such an eyesore it was on the verge of demolition in 2009.
Built in 1913, the depot and its 18-story office building saw the last train pull out in 1988. In 1995, it saw a brief flicker of hope when it was acquired by trucking magnate Manuel Moroun. But it sat empty.
The Michigan Central Station was perhaps Detroit’s main symbol of decline, according to the Detroit Free Press. Now, it may end up being the symbol of its revival, with any luck.
The Michigan Central Station is set to be the center of a large Ford Corktown campus centered around forward-looking automotive technology research and design, which would be shifting from the suburbs of Dearborn to Corktown in a highly symbolic move.
Ford expects up to 2,500 employees occupying the buildings in the next four years and the focus will be on the future of mobility including electric and autonomous vehicles. About 2,500 more employees will be added later.
The expectation is that, with its partners, Ford will work on autonomous and electric vehicles, and design urban mobility services and solutions that include self-driving vehicles, roads, parking and public transit.
The Michigan Central Station will house more than just Ford employees, though. The auto company says it will be a mixed-use facility with facilities for up to 5,000 office workers and space for shops. Ford is buying other buildings and land, too, and plans to take up space in over 1.2 million square feet in the neighborhood.
Dawn Booker, communications manager for Ford Land Development Co., the automaker's real estate division, told reporters in late May, when rumors of the deal surfaced, that Ford is “very excited about our return to Detroit this year beginning with our electric vehicle and autonomous vehicle teams relocating to the historic former factory in Corktown. We expect to grow our presence in Detroit and will share more details in the future."
Earlier this month, Ford launched “City of Tomorrow Challenges” in Miami and Pittsburgh to find new solutions and opportunities within urban transportation networks.