The building in question is the infamous Michigan Central Station, a long-abandoned train station and 18-story Beaux-Arts Classical structure that draws visitors from around the world as a glaring example of so-called ruin porn. Crain’s Detroit Business, a sister publication of Automotive News, first reported that Ford was mulling a purchase and redevelopment of the massive building, while the Detroit News reports that Ford is instead exploring whether to become a major tenant in the building. Rumors were also swirling Monday on Twitter.
In a statement, Ford said it “is focused on locating our autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle business and strategy teams, including Team Edison, to the Factory in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood. While we anticipate our presence over time will grow as our AV/EV teams begin moving downtown in May, we have nothing further to announce at this time.”
First opened in 1913, the 500,000 square-foot train depot has been completely abandoned since 1988 and is heavily blighted, with windows added to seal it off from the elements only in 2015; previously, there were vantage points across the city from which one could literally see daylight through the other side of its massive facade. The building has been owned since 1996 by the Moroun family, which also owns a trucking company and the nearby Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
Ford recently announced plans to locate more than 200 employees just down the street at The Factory in Corktown, where it plans to house teams working on autonomous and electric vehicle business and strategies in a 45,000-square-foot former factory starting in May. Company officials have said that decision was motivated by the need to attract young talent to the fold. Ford also announced an ambitious decade-long redesign of its entire, sprawling Dearborn campus back in 2016 to introduce more urban amenities like bike and walking paths and make it more like Silicon Valley.
The Detroit News, citing multiple unnamed sources, said Ford has been negotiating to amass properties around the station in the historic Corktown neighborhood, which has been a focus in recent years of redevelopment efforts in the city. So while this move, if it happens, might not impress profit- and product-hungry Wall Street, it would definitely impress Michigan Avenue.