Ford reveals revitalization plan for historic Detroit neighborhood


Ford Motor Company has announced site plans for Michigan Central, a mobility innovation district in Detroit. Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) is creating the master plan for the project and Gensler will reinterpret the Book Depository, a key building in development.
Image courtesy of PAU

Ford Motor Company unveiled the site map for Michigan Central, an inclusive, vibrant, and walkable mobility innovation district in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, and designs for some of the county’s first buildings.

In 2018, CEO Bill Ford announced plans to restore Detroit’s former world-class train station, abandoned since 1988, as the centerpiece of an innovation center to determine the future movement of people and goods. The vision includes an open platform for innovators, startups, entrepreneurs and other partners from all over the world to develop, test and bring to market new mobility solutions on real roads in real situations.

The 12 hectare site plan, which was developed by the lead architect and strategic planner Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), provides for a walk-through community that is anchored at the train station. It will prioritize the needs of residents and businesses, as well as the 5000 employees who work there, connect with the surrounding neighborhoods and the city, and preserve the region’s history with a mix of old and new.

The development consists of four key buildings: the Michigan Central Station, the Book Depository, which is located next to the train station and is being converted into a maker space by the architects Gensler, Building West, a new building west of the train station, and the factory in which 250 members of Ford’s autonomous vehicle business unit are based. The focus of the plan is a unique mobility platform on the elevated train tracks behind the station with new open spaces that connect the buildings on the site and welcome the community.

The site map is the result of a community-based, 18-month research and planning process and reflects more than 100 hours of discussion between Ford and key stakeholders from the city and community. Based on the feedback from residents, the plan provides for more public facilities, green spaces, hiking and cycling trails, art in public spaces and open spaces that can be activated and used in all weather conditions. It ensures that the station’s view is not blocked and that residents of southwest Detroit can easily access and enjoy the district, an important issue for the community. The site plan fulfills Detroit’s goal of developing walkable neighborhoods with high quality retail stores, open spaces, amenities and multimodal transit options within 20 minutes. To encourage vibrancy and density, the plan includes a range of housing options, as well as new public facilities such as a grocery store and daycare.

Michigan Central Station is located in the nexus of four Detroit neighborhoods – Corktown, North Corktown, Mexicantown, and Hubbard Richard. Ford’s site plan calls for the station to act as the gateway to these neighborhoods via the mobility platform, multiple outdoor plazas, open spaces, and improved roads, as well as connecting to downtown Detroit and the riverside. The Vernor Viaduct will provide a major access point to the train station from the south, turning an enclosed section of the Vernor Highway into a pedestrian walkway that will welcome residents of Mexicantown and Southwest Detroit.

Michigan Central will also be a hub in the Michigan proposed connected and autonomous vehicle corridor, which runs from Detroit to Dearborn and Ann Arbor, connecting the district to a broader regional network of testing, research and innovation. Ford is one of the founding partners of this groundbreaking project, working with Cavnue and others.

Book Depository, the industrial heart of Michigan Central
The book depot designed by Albert Kahn will become the district’s industrial center, which Gensler will redesign as a mixed-use maker area and offer co-working areas, practical laboratories and innovation studios.

Directly in front of the door, an outdoor square and a café connect the building and the street. A new main entrance in the northwest corner of the building welcomes visitors on a seamless pedestrian walkway that connects the entrances to the north, south and east and connects to adjacent buildings and open spaces. On the upper floors, a central four-story atrium will bring light into the large floor plans. The crown jewel of the restoration is the roof, which overlooks Michigan Central Station, Detroit, the riverside, and Canada.

Click here to learn more about the Michigan Central Project.


Dusty Kennedy