Ford Announces 8-acre Park and Tech Zones Behind Michigan Central in Detroit

Following an extensive six-year renovation by Ford Motor Co., Michigan Central Station at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street in Detroit will offer the public a first look at the interior restoration of its historic ground floor this week.
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Michigan Central is adding a new 8-acre public park on The Station’s former rail yard behind the building, a key connector along the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway. // Rendering courtesy of Michigan Central

Following an extensive six-year renovation by Ford Motor Co., Michigan Central Station at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street in Detroit will offer the public a first look at the interior restoration of its historic ground floor this week.

The Station officially welcomes the community back to share in its historic reopening during Michigan Central OPEN from June 6-16.

In addition, today Michigan Central unveiled the first renderings of a new 8-acre public park under development on The Station’s former rail yard (south or behind the building) and a key connector along the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway. By comparison, Roosevelt Park in front of The Station spans 13 acres.

Designed for sustainability and inclusivity, the south park will have a mix of gardens, playscapes, and community gathering and event spaces alongside tech-enabled zones for Detroiters to innovate and collaborate.

The park will break ground in 2025 and will utilize native landscaping from the region. From a rendering, the park will include children play areas, patio space, room for food trucks, artwork, and walking paths. No information was provided on when the park will open.

The rendering also shows a courtyard featuring three reflecting pools at the southern exit from The Station. East of the pools the rendering reveals more park space and some smaller, unidentified, structures.

Ford embarked on the overall preservation project after acquiring the abandoned train station in 2018 to be the centerpiece of Michigan Central, a 30-acre technology and cultural hub in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

Michigan Central will bring Ford employees together with external partners, entrepreneurs, students, and even competitors to co-create new products, services, and technologies that add value to a new generation of Ford customers and help build a better world.

While Ford’s investment is crucial to the company’s long-term planning, it also represents a commitment to the city of Detroit and its future, with The Station becoming a beacon of development and opportunity.

“Michigan Central means a great deal to us all. In many ways, this building tells the story of our city,” says Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford. “This Station was our Ellis Island — a place where dreamers in search of new jobs and new opportunities first set foot in Detroit.

“But once the last train pulled out, it became a place where hope left. In 2018, I decided it was time to change that by reimagining this station as a place of possibility again. Over the past six years, Ford Motor Co. and teams of forward thinkers, designers, community leaders, and more than 3,000 skilled tradespeople have worked to bring this landmark back to life.”

The restoration of the Beaux-Arts building included its classical façade to its ornate interiors, including the Grand Hall with its 54-foot Guastavino tile vaulted ceiling, to the arcade, ticket lobby, and restaurant.

Since renovations began in late 2018, more than 1.7 million hours have been spent meticulously returning The Station to its original architectural grandeur, while retrofitting it with modern technology and infrastructure to support its next chapter.

“I wanted Michigan Central to be beautifully restored but also reimagined for so much more,” Bill Ford says. “This will be a place for the community to enjoy and a destination for visitors from all over. We will have restaurants, music, art, and great retail. And the innovation that will happen here, with startups and companies big and small, will help ensure Detroit preserves its title as the Motor City for generations to come.”

Joshua Sirefman, CEO of Michigan Central, says the campus “will take us to the future,” and adds “Michigan Central will advance mobility solutions that help solve some of society’s biggest challenges. It will also be a powerful catalyst for growth and an economic engine for this region.”

Ford is among the building’s first tenants, and will move employees from its Ford Model e and Ford Integrated Services teams into newly renovated office space across three floors in The Station starting later this year.

Ford also will have collaboration space in The Station for other southeast Michigan-based employees to use. Some 1,000 Ford employees will work across the Michigan Central district by the end of the year, with a goal of 2,500 by 2028.

Alongside Ford, The Station will play a critical role in attracting other visionary companies to Detroit, and accommodating them within the 30-acre Michigan Central district.

The innovation hub will provide 640,000 square feet of cultural, technology, community, and convening spaces designed to inspire creative collaboration between established companies, universities, growing startups, youth initiatives, students, and other stakeholders.

The Station joins the neighboring Newlab located east of Michigan Central, which, in just over a year since its launch, has grown into a diverse community of more than 600 employees from nearly 100 companies and startups.

With entrepreneurs and inventors focused on fields like advanced aerial mobility, energy equity, and multimodal logistics, Newlab at Michigan Central provides a testing environment that includes infrastructure like the first electrified public road and Bagley Mobility Hub (a multi-faceted parking deck), along with policy tools like the Transportation Innovation Zone, which allows for the safe fast-tracking of testing technology pilots.

Originally designed by architects Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem, the same team behind New York’s famed Grand Central, Michigan Central Station first opened its doors in 1913 as one of the country’s most spectacular transportation terminals.

It saw 4,000 daily passengers at its peak, but, following decades of declining rail travel, the building was shuttered in 1988 and sat vacant for three decades, experiencing severe neglect, weathering, decay, and vandalism.

Construction teams looked to old and new technologies to ensure accuracy to historical standards and to preserve, re-create, and repurpose different aspects of the building from all chapters of its life.

For example, to source more than 600 tons of limestone, Ford and its partners located the same quarry in Indiana that provided the original stone for The Station’s exterior more than 100 years ago.

The quarry, like The Station, had been closed for three decades, and needed to be reopened for the project. A Michigan tradesman spent 428 hours hand-carving a replica of a single column capital from one of these limestone blocks for the building’s north entrance.

“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. “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.”

To honor The Station’s more recent history, international experts examined and curated graffiti on the building’s walls for preservation. Select sections of this art were saved.

Additional renovation facts:

  • 8 million bricks make up The Station, which if laid end to end would stretch about 1,000 miles.
  • 1,300 square feet of terra cotta cornice was restored.
  • 102,000 square feet of windows were replaced or restored.
  • 4,200 new light fixtures were installed, including re-creations of three massive chandeliers in the Waiting Room and Grand Hall.
  • Restoring the building’s iconic Waiting Room and Grand Hall required the equivalent of 8.7 miles of grout used on the 29,000 Guastavino ceiling tiles alone. All but 1,300 of these tiles are original to The Station.
  • 5 million gallons of water were pumped from its basement, and 3,990 cubic yards of debris were hauled out of the building.

The Station will bring the larger Detroit community together to collaborate and test ideas in one place, bolstering Michigan Central’s long-standing commitments to growing the local mobility ecosystem by engaging new voices and fostering greater community participation and development.

This includes a dedicated youth programming floor in The Station’s tower that provides 23,000 square feet of flexible space to house local and national organizations focused on growing the next generation.

The Station and its surrounding area also will become a vibrant destination for Detroiters and all who visit the city. It will feature a growing network of green spaces and an array of local programming and events, as well as arts and cultural opportunities.

Alongside these efforts, Michigan Central supports local residents and small businesses with high-quality and credentialed skills-training programs that address barriers in Detroit’s talent pipeline and connect participants with opportunities for in-demand jobs.

In the coming months, The Station will also begin a phased activation of innovative and experiential retail and dining opportunities.

From June 6-16, Ford Motor Co. and Michigan Central will host Michigan Central OPEN, welcoming the community to celebrate this historic moment in Detroit’s history.

Festivities begin Thursday, June 6, with an opening night spectacular, Live from Detroit: The Concert at Michigan Central, which will feature a once-in-a-lifetime lineup of some of Detroit’s biggest stars.

Produced by the Emmy-winning Jesse Collins Entertainment, the sold-out show will feature short films, appearances by local leaders, and creators telling stories of innovation and culture from around the city and the region.

Then, beginning on June 7, The Station’s doors open to the public for the 10-day, immersive OPEN House experience to see the landmark’s restored first floor. Michigan Central’s art program also will unveil a new iteration of Reddymade’s me + you, a critically acclaimed interactive sculpture, specifically for Michigan Central.

For more information on Michigan Central, visit michigancentral.com/.