Dearborn’s Ford Begins Second Phase of Construction at Corktown’s Michigan Central Station

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn announced Thursday the second phase of construction at the Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood is underway. The phase includes restoring eight acres of masonry and repairing the steel structure of the Beaux-Arts building. It is the most labor- and time-intensive part of the project and will continue into 2021.
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Ford's Michigan Central Station
Ford began the second phase of construction on the Michigan Central Station. // Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn announced Thursday the second phase of construction at the Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood is underway. The phase includes restoring eight acres of masonry and repairing the steel structure of the Beaux-Arts building. It is the most labor- and time-intensive part of the project and will continue into 2021.

Beginning in June, scaffolding will be erected around the 15-floor tower, followed by the Grand Lobby in the fall. Workers will remove bricks to fix the steel framework underneath and then will clean, repoint, and replace the damaged terracotta, limestone, and brick that make up the station’s exterior.

The band of steel around the top of the 240-foot structure will also undergo inspection. Workers will remove 1,200 feet of cornice, a decorative molding around the top edge of the building, to examine the steel behind it and make repairs. Terracotta cornices will be replaced, and 106,000 square feet of roof structure repairs will also be completed in the second phase.

Also, 1,184 tower windows will be restored to preserve the station’s historic appearance.

The first phase of construction involved winterizing, drying out, and securing the 640,000-square-foot station to begin reversing 30 years of water damage and decay. Workers installed temporary roofing and plumbing systems. To date, they have removed 227,000 gallons of water from the building. It will continue to dry out naturally over the next few years, and temporary heating will be added in the fall to help the process.

“We’ve made huge strides in the first 6-months of construction thanks to the multiple contractors and teams onsite who are working together to get the job done correctly and safely,” says Richard Bardelli, construction manager for the project. “Their hard work and collaboration is making a complicated job a whole lot easier.”

Inside the building, masonry repairs will focus on the Guastavino tile vaulted ceiling in the former waiting room. It is made up of 22,000 square feet of clay tiles covering three self-supporting arches.

“Despite having had no roof for decades, the Guastavino ceiling is in surprisingly good shape, which is testament to its superior craftsmanship,” says Bardelli. “We installed a temporary roof to protect the arches from further deterioration, and we will now be working to install a new copper roof.”

Ford plans to clean all of the restorable Guastavino tiles and replace others. The company has already made an initial order of 5,000 tiles from a manufacturer capable of replicating the feature. Interior scaffolding will go up in early 2020 to make the repair work possible.

Other artisan work in the former waiting room, concourse, and arcade will be taken down and restored or replicated, including plaster work and ornamental pieces that decorated the walls and marble columns that were removed when the building was vacant.

Original drawings and blueprints will be used to make molds to replicate decorative pieces. The construction team is working with Ford’s engineering team to explore 3-D modeling to replicate plaster ornamentation.

The final phase of construction will finish and restore the interior and prepare it for tenants in 2022, when the station opens to the public.

Ford bought the train station in June and began the first phase of construction in December. The company plans to transform it and its surrounding properties into a 1.2-million-square-foot innovation campus for autonomous and electric vehicle creation as well as urban mobility services and solutions.

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