Michigan Central: An Old Detroit Monolith Gets A Second Chance

Michigan Central: An Old Detroit Monolith Gets A Second Chance
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BRE’ANNA TINSLEY/ WDET

For years, Michigan Central Station has haunted the neighborhoods of Corktown and Mexican town, looming as a testament to Detroit’s greatness, failings, outsized personality, and complicated infrastructure.

The train station, which last handled passengers in the late 1980s, had become a sign of the city’s problem with vacancy and abandonment, and a symbol of the challenges Detroit could never seem to wrap its arms around.  And the Moroun family, owners of the station as well as the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, presided over its long decay and ruin.

But Monday marked the beginning of a new chapter for Michigan Central Station, and maybe for the city as a whole.  The Moroun family announced that Ford Motor Company had bought the building, presumably to anchor its new high-tech automotive presence in Corktown.

For many people, this was an unimaginable turn. Think of the various plans that have been floated for the behemoth station in the past – a casino, police headquarters. And, of course, it was threatened with the wrecking ball.

None of those things came to pass over three decades of emptiness, and it seemed at times the station was doomed to permanent limbo, and rot.

So now that there’s a realistic future being laid out for Michigan Central Station, what should Detroiters be expecting?

Kirk Pinho, reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, says Ford won’t leave its Dearborn campus, but it’s expected to build out its autonomous and electric vehicle operations at the train station.

What happens with the [Michigan Central] concourse isn’t entirely known yet,” says Pinho. But, Pinho says, it’s feasible Ford will locate a sizable chunk of its operations in Detroit. ”You could very easily be looking at a couple thousand people.”

To hear more from Pinho on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.