Detroit's derelict and crumbling Michigan Central Station has marred the city's skyline for the last three decades. Now, Ford Motor Co. plans to turn the building into a shrine to the future — both for itself and the city.
Ford this month confirmed its purchase of the 18-story train depot, which will anchor a one-of-a-kind research and engineering campus, where Ford envisions having thousands of workers developing autonomous and electric vehicles. Renovating the depot is estimated to take about four years.
"I've seen Detroit at its best and at its worst," said Executive Chairman Bill Ford, 61, "and one thing I hated was when the national media was writing about the decay of Detroit, the poster child for that was always the train station. That always really bothered me because I remembered as a young boy when it was amazing. They kept using that as a metaphor for what happened in Detroit."
Ford plans to put around 2,500 employees into the depot and surrounding properties — it's amassing space for up to 5,000 people — and envisions using autonomous shuttles to ferry workers between the campus in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood and nearby cities such as Dearborn, the home of Ford's headquarters.
"For 76 years, the train station was our Ellis Island," Bill Ford said at the formal announcement last week. "Once the last train pulled out, it became the symbol that hope left. ... It's time to remake the station into a place of possibility again."