They say to know where you’re going, look at where you’ve been. And Ford Motor Company took that old adage to heart.
The business that put Michigan on the map just closed a deal to purchase the state’s historic Central Station, a beautiful and long-abandoned train depot in downtown Detroit.
Opened in 1914 to much fanfare and closed now for 30 years, the building represents at once all the splendor of the Motor City’s glory days and the urban decay that visited it heavily once the manufacturing fever broke.
Still, Ford’s plans for the place don’t focus on its significance in the past or even the present. Instead, all eyes are trained on the future.
The carmaker wants to turn the 500,000-square-foot station into a hub for automotive technology. Nearly 2,500 employees will move there to work on problems that could plague future roads. Autonomous car development and deployment will be a focal point.
An additional 2,500 workers from Ford suppliers and partner companies will also be housed in the historic building.
Those corporate citizens will be sandwiched between even more public and private spaces. Ford plans to open a public concourse on the first floor, with restaurants and retail establishments. Housing units are being planned for the building’s upper floors.
But cars, trucks, and SUVs aren’t the only vehicles involved in the station’s rehabilitation.
Company officials would do everything in their power to preserve at least four passenger train tracks and two freight lines that run in the back of the building, said Ford Land CEO Dave Dubensky.
The admission has set of waves of speculation, including the idea that Ford will be transporting employees over the rails to other nearby hotspots for autonomous innovation, including the American Center for Mobility, Mcity, and May Mobility.
Still, big visions often come at big costs. While the company didn’t release any specifics on the price of its renovation plans, Executive Chairman Bill Ford told the Detroit Free Press he anticipated the project would take about four years to complete.
Ford also subsequently purchased several neighboring buildings, including the city’s historic Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, to further extend its development possibilities in the area.
All told, the historic restoration is part of the company’s $1 billion capital improvements project, which lays out plans for a number of other developments across Ford’s various Michigan headquarters.