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Ford Plans $740M Detroit Train Station Project

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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In a move to revive Detroit’s Cortland neighborhood, automaker Ford spent $740 million to acquire and later renovate Michigan Central Station, among other sites, with a long-term plan for a tech campus in mind.

The properties—which also include the Book Depository, a former brass factory, a former hosiery factory and 45 acres of unused land—were purchased back in June, and Ford is currently working with local, state and federal economic development groups and officials, while also seeking $250 million in tax credits or other perks to facilitate the work.

$740 Million Development

The cost is a culmination of purchasing the buildings and land, as well as forecast expenditures that will go toward rehabilitating the exteriors and interiors of buildings over the next four years. These costs also factor in the demands of restoring a historic structure like the train station, Ford said.

While such an interest and redevelopment could have benefits for Detroit, Ford is looking for $250 million in funding to come from public sources. The company’s goal is to create what has been dubbed a “renaissance zone” for the campus, with tax incentives including a waiver of income and many city property taxes. These incentives will be drawn on over the next 34 years, according to the Detroit Metro Times.

Albert duce, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a move to revive Detroit’s Cortland neighborhood, automaker Ford spent $740 million to acquire and later renovate Michigan Central Station, among other sites, with a long-term plan for a tech campus in mind.

Using funding from public sources remains a source of contention in Detroit, as residents have been displaced by the revitalization of the city’s downtown area, which was subsidized by taxpayers. Developers working on projects that cost more than $75 million that also receive significant investment from the city must take part in a Community Benefits Agreement: The public should gain more from a project than what is invested in it, whether that take the form of affordable housing or job creation. To date, however, six CBAs currently in place have proven ineffective due to the agreements being non-binding, sketched out in vague terms.

Train Station Renovation

Though use of public funds remains a concern, those in the community have started proposing ideas for the train station space, which Ford boasts would play host to as many as 5,000 workers.

In an event on Friday (Aug. 17), Ford opened the doors to the station for a day-long event geared toward brainstorming ideas for potential uses for the first floor, which would be open to the public. Ideas proposed include the use of solar panels, a library, art exhibits, concerns, pop-up restaurants and a daycare center. Ford plans to lease out the higher floors to different companies, providing spaces for startups while also attracting talent.

Michigan Central Station, designed by Reed & Stem—a firm well known for designing New York City’s Grand Central Terminal—was opened in 1913 as the tallest train station in the world, and served as Detroit’s primary rail hub until it was closed by Amtrak in 1988. Ford purchased the property from the Moroun family. The station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This beautiful space will be completely restored and be open to the public,” said Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “We’ll have restaurants and coffee shops and bars and retail all going on down here. We’re also going to work with the community to see what they would like to happen here. We don’t want to just be this corporate entity coming downtown. We want to be part of the fabric of Corktown.”

The station is slated for completion in 2022.


Tagged categories: Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Project Management; Urban Planning

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