It looks like Michigan Central Station, the long-abandoned, enormous train station that stands out as one of the most illustrative artifacts of Detroit’s decline, is going to have a new owner soon, according to reports: Ford.
Over the weekend, Crain’s Detroit Business fleshed out a story that linked Ford to dozens of properties in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, which sits just west of the city’s downtown core. The likelihood is that Ford’s interested in building a new campus in Detroit to bolster its recent announcement of a new hub in the neighborhood for its autonomous and electric vehicle teams.
Crain’s pegged Ford in an earlier report as a possible suitor for the train station—a recently (and slightly) renovated facility that’s used today mostly as a backdrop for boring wedding photos—so the notion that Ford would be interested in developing around the enormous building would make sense.
Apparently the only news outlet in town actually chasing this story, Crain’s caught up this week with Edsel B. Ford II, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, who confirmed the automaker’s board of directors “has been briefed” on plans to buy the vacant train station. A vote could come in the next couple of weeks.
Here’s more from Crain’s:
Ford, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, commented on the company’s efforts to establish a campus for employees working in the development of electric and autonomous vehicles of the future following a ceremony at Campus Martius honoring his work on the Detroit 300 Conservancy group that was instrumental in creating the park.
The Ford Motor Co. board plans to discuss the train station deal at its May 10 meeting and could take a vote on the major real estate acquisition proposal, Edsel Ford II said.
“It doesn’t need a vote, but it requires buy-in,” Ford said.
It’s hard not to come across like an over-eager jerkoff that overstates the significance of the proposal, but this would be a big deal for Detroit.
Living near the train station before taking my current job with Jalopnik, I always walked by the facility along Michigan Avenue in awe of the building. It’s a stunning sight up close, and I always hoped someone would drop the gobs of cash that’s needed to rehab it. The one downside is that Corktown, a working class neighborhood that’s one of the oldest established areas of Detroit, is rapidly gentrifying, and this would surely accelerate that phenomenon. Still, the building deserves to be salvaged.
The one holdup could be the current owners, the Moroun family. They own the Ambassador Bridge that connects to Canada and have a terrible reputation among residents in the city. They could potentially pull the deal on a moment’s notice before it’s finalized. It sure seems like it’s moving ahead, though.
It’s wild to think I could come home to cover the Detroit Auto Show sometime in the next few years, with the possibility now that an event for that could be held in the train station. I would’ve never imagined it.