Central Michigan station in Detroit has been closed for many years. In fact, for some it has been a symbol of urban decay, but Bill Ford wants to change that. In the next four years, the plan is to renovate it for use by the Ford Motor Company, so it becomes an entrepreneurial hub.
The ferry terminal in San Francisco is over 1,000 miles from Detroit, but it was an inspiration for Mr. Ford in the way it still functions for transportation, but it also has many food outlets and is a gathering place for its part of San Francisco.
“We’d like to bring in Detroit entrepreneurs who want to do really interesting and cool things here. We will bring in probably some national cutting-edge kinds of experiences, as well,” Ford said.
Detroit is no Silicon Valley, but then again, real estate in Detroit and the surrounding area is extremely affordable compared with the Bay Area. Young entrepreneurs do often benefit from being in the Bay Area, but some struggle with paying for rent.
Mr. Ford pointed to another infrastructure project he was involved with, “When I did the Rouge, that was another building that I spent a lot of my time and personal capital on, was the Rouge rebuild, and I wanted to take the world’s biggest brownfield plant and turn it into the greenest assembly plant in the country. A lot of people thought that was crazy. Now, everybody thinks, ‘oh, of course you did that.’ At the time, it was very controversial.”
The old Central Michigan station has an office tower with over 15 floors, and there may enough space for 5,000 people. Much of the office space will be leased out, but Ford will use some of it for autonomous vehicle development and testing.
Recycling old buildings, if possible, certainly preserves local history and contributes on a cultural level. This seems especially true in relation to strip mall developments and chain retail outlets.