A New Beginning: Ford to Reopen Michigan Central Station after Multi-Year Historic Restoration

Jun 06, 2024

DETROIT, June 3, 2024 - Following an extensive six-year renovation by Ford Motor Company, Michigan Central Station 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. 

Ford embarked on the 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
Bill Ford
Executive Chair, Ford Motor Company

“This Station was our Ellis Island – a place where dreamers in search of new jobs and new opportunities first set foot in Detroit," said Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford. "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 Company and teams of forward thinkers, designers, community leaders, and more than 3,000 skilled tradespeople have worked to bring this landmark back to life.”  

Ford and Michigan Central assembled a dream team to breathe new life into the stunning Beaux-Arts building – from 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 said. “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.” 

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
Joshua Sirefman
CEO, Michigan Central.

“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,” said Joshua Sirefman, CEO of Michigan Central.

The Station's Next Chapter 

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 will also 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 Newlab at 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, over half of whom have at least one founder from an underrepresented background. With entrepreneurs and inventors focused on fields like advanced aerial mobility, energy equity, and multimodal logistics, Newlab at Michigan Central provides an unparalleled testing environment that includes infrastructure like the first electrified public road and Bagley Mobility Hub, along with policy tools like the Transportation Innovation Zone, which allows for the safe fast-tracking of testing technology pilots. 

An Electric Roadmap

One of those pioneering Newlab members is Electreon, which is working to tackle one of the biggest obstacles facing electric vehicle adoption -- charging -- with a simple mantra: Cut the cord.

Dedicated to providing wireless charging solutions for EVs, Electreon is developing a road that can charge vehicles while they are parked or driving.

Making anything look simple takes a lot of hard work and ingeunity, however. These roads contains inductive-charging coils, which transfer electricity wirelessly to receivers on a vehicle.

In November 2023, Electreon unveiled the first public charging road in the U.S. on 14th St east of Michigan Central Station. And in addition to collaborating with over 100 global partners, the company has a five-year partnership with MDOT to develop the electric road system on Michigan roads by creating a mile-long stretch of road in Corktown along Michigan Ave.

Cracking the Code

Committed to advancing the youth of Detroit, CODE313 is a non-proft whose goal is to provide equitable access to STEAM education.

Born and raised in Detroit, the company’s Founder and Executive Director Bartel Welch has over 20 years of experience in the technology world and is a leader in the conceptualization, reverse engineering, and overall improvement of interactive applications.

At Michigan Central Station, CODE313 will continue its mission to teach youth how to code, and provides enrichment camps and free workshops, including drone classes. The organization is dedicated to bridging the digital divide through career readiness and workforce development.

Not Just Hot Air 

Two years after being diagnosed with asthma while living in Southwest Detroit, Darren Riley was inspired to start JustAir -- another Newlab member that builds air quality monitors to protect local communities from pollution.

The company aims to help everyone breathe clean air by collaborating with environmental justice leaders, residents, governments, and more to provide air quality data to communities.

Currently, JustAir is working on a three-year partnership with Wayne County to install both stationary and mobile air monitors across the county with input from the community. The mobile monitors will help children with asthma monitor the air quality around them as they travel to and from school.

The Station’s storied past and arduous renovation 

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, was shuttered in 1988 and sat vacant for three decades, experiencing severe neglect, weathering, decay and vandalism. 

Our construction teams have accomplished what many thought was impossible
Ron Staley
Executive Director of Historic Preservation, Christman-Brinker

“The result is amazing, like no other project any of us have worked on in our careers, and I look forward to everyone experiencing the space at this week's opening and for generations to come,” said Ron Staley, Executive Director of Historic Preservation for Christman-Brinker, the Detroit-based joint venture that led the restoration work.

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. 

A  Capstone Moment

Over a career that spans nearly four decades, John Goodrow Sr. has carved more than 1,000 capital stones.

None of them hold a candle to what he's done now.

Tasked with carving a replica capital stone for the restoration -- the largest piece he's ever worked on -- Goodrow didn't even have a drawing or picture to reference. What he did have was a 21,000-pound block of limestone.

Goodrow toiled away at this massive block for 428 hours, hand-carving what ultimately became an ornate, 11,500-pound replacement for one of the main entrance’s Corinthian column capitals.

Restoration Innovation

This restoration required leveraging all kinds of skills and technology, including some that Ford typically uses in its automotive research. 

To re-create some of the intricate architectural details such as rosettes and filigree on the building’s large arch windows, several teams at Ford – Research and Advanced Engineering, Manufacturing Technology Development and others – were tapped for their expertise in 3D computer-aided design processing, scanning and printing techniques.

The teams were able to 3D scan parts of the building and reverse engineer them in order to restore each one to their original designs. Different scans were combined and missing pieces redesigned when necessary – and Ford’s manufacturing technology team printed the rosettes and filigree using a lightweight polymer that made for easier installation.

Nearly 550 pieces were created, with 20 variants of differing lengths and flower positioning. These pieces mark Ford’s first use of polymer additive manufacturing for architectural construction, and highlight the company's innovative spirit and dedication to maintaining the building’s rich heritage.


“Everything Ford could save, we did, and other elements were re-created through technology and tenacity,” said 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.

The Station in the community 

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 will also 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.

Today, Michigan Central unveiled the first renderings of a new public park under development on The Station’s former rail yard and a key connector along the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway. Designed for sustainability and inclusivity, it will have a mix of gardens, playscapes, and community gathering and event spaces alongside tech-enabled zones for Detroiters to innovate and collaborate. 

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. 

Michigan Central OPEN

From June 6-16, Ford Motor Company 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 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 will also unveil a new iteration of Reddymade’s me + you, a critically acclaimed interactive sculpture, specifically for Michigan Central.