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Michigan Central Station on Track to Reopen

Detroit celebrates iconic landmark’s restoration

By Kathy Gibbons

Michigan Central Station’s Grand Hall || Photo by Stephen McGee, courtesy of Michigan Central

Coming on the heels of its record-breaking 2024 NFL Draft, Detroit takes the spotlight again with the reopening of the historic Michigan Central Station following a Ford Motor Company renovation over the last six years.

Michigan Central Station is part of a new mobility innovation district located in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown. It is the focal point of the district, which Ford describes as a place “where mobility innovators and disruptors from around the world will develop, test, and launch new urban transportation solutions.”

Michigan Central Station first opened in 1913, going on to serve 4,000 passengers a day at its peak of operations. But after decades of declining rail travel, Michigan Central Station closed in 1988 and fell victim to decay and vandalism during the subsequent three decades of neglect.

Ford acquired the iconic structure in 2018, hiring construction teams who used both old and new technologies to restore the building to historical standards while bringing its infrastructure up to date. In one case, the same quarry in Indiana—also long closed—that provided the original stone for Michigan Central Station’s exterior was reopened so that 600 tons of limestone could be sourced as part of the restoration.

“Everything Ford could save, we did, and other elements were re-created through technology and tenacity,” says Melissa Dittmer, head of place at Michigan Central Station, in a prepared statement. “At the same time, it was important to us to respect the station’s extraordinary past, including its ongoing role in Detroit’s cultural landscape. Weaving these histories through repurposed, state-of-the-art spaces will enable us to create an inclusive, forward-looking building that can propel innovation for the next 100 years.”

Now Ford is welcoming the public to participate in the historic Michigan Central Station reopening during what it is calling Michigan Central Station Open. It all starts with a performance, “Live from Detroit: The Concert at Michigan Central,” on June 6, that will be streamed live on Peacock and followed by a primetime NBC special. Executive produced by Eminem and his longtime manager Paul Rosenberg, it will feature performances by Diana Ross, Big Sean, Jack White, Common, Melissa Etheridge, Jelly Roll, and other guests.

From June 7-16, the public is invited to visit and tour the restored first floor, with features that include the Grand Hall with its 54-foot Guastavino tile vaulted ceiling, arcade, ticket lobby, and restaurant. A new interactive sculpture from Reddymade will also be unveiled. From June 21 to Aug. 31, the first floor will remain open for self-guided tours from 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; expanded hours will be announced for fall, when the first phase of commercial activations opens.

Ford is among the first tenants to occupy Michigan Central Station, set to move its Model e and Integrated Services teams into offices across three floors later in 2024. About 1,000 Ford employees are anticipated to be working in the district by the end of the year, with another 1,500 expected by 2028.

Besides the state-of-the-art mobility hub, Michigan Central Station will eventually feature 640,000 square feet of retail, hospitality, event, and collaborative innovation spaces. A new public park is also being created on the former rail yard with plans to offer a mix of gardens, playscapes, and community gathering and event spaces.

Says Joshua Sirefman, Michigan Central Station CEO, “Thanks to the thousands of people who contributed to this project, one of the city’s most treasured landmarks has been brought back to life while creating a space that will take us into the future.”