Yes, we’re talking about Ford the automaker, and a massive mixed-use, multimodal development project centered around a train station.
Many automakers have been dabbling in micromobility and autonomous vehicles as they try to prepare for the transport transformations of the 21st century rather than crumble underneath them. But a 30-acre walkable community centered around a train station is something else.
Naturally, Ford is working with others on this project, but it is the project lead. It puts the Michigan Central Station at its core. Renovation of Michigan Central Station is a years-long project, but one that must be exciting and breathing new life into people in the area, as the station has been closed since 1988! Michigan Central will also be a hub for innovation and a new economy. Around 5,000 people are expected to work in the district. “Ford will transform a set of abandoned elevated railroad tracks into a mobility platform – an open, versatile landscape where Ford and its innovation partners can test and showcase emerging technology, including autonomous vehicles and micro-mobility initiatives. It will also provide shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists and gathering spaces for the community, reconfigurable for a variety of uses.”
“Along with a first-of-its-kind mobility testing platform and new open spaces, site plan prioritizes the needs of the community with sustainable amenities; recommends abundant green space, biking trails, cafés, shuttles, scooters, retailers, grocery stores, day care, housing and parking all within a 20-minute walk,” a press release from Ford notes. As a symbol or our constantly evolving world, the heart of an innovation district is the Book Depository, designed by Albert Kahn, which is being transformed into “a mixed-use maker space offering flexible workspaces, hands-on labs and innovation studios to spur collaboration.”
All of this is happening in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown. “Central to the plan is a first-of-its-kind mobility platform on the elevated train tracks behind the station, with new open spaces throughout that connect site buildings and welcome the community.”
“This project is about preparing Ford for another century of innovation and success,” said Mary Culler, Ford’s Detroit development director and Ford Fund president. “At Michigan Central, we are taking a collaborative approach to innovation, including providing flexible work spaces that attract and engage the best minds to solve complex transportation and related challenges as we shape the future of mobility together.”
A building called The Factory (that’s nice) is the home to Ford’s autonomous vehicle business unit, with 250 from the division working there.
“Over time, I am confident that this project will become a global model for how to grow and build our cities while celebrating the narratives and structures that define our past,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder and creative director of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism.
Even the buildings themselves will be efforts at adapting to evolving needs of a 21st century workforce.
“The revitalized building is designed to meet the demands of a shifting hybrid workforce – tenants with high expectations when it comes to shared amenities, access to wellness resources and opportunities for connection,” said Lily Diego, design director at Gensler’s Detroit office. “The interiors will be highly flexible, adaptable and versatile, where anything from walls and panels to furniture and fixtures can be flipped, moved or repurposed to support a multiplicity of uses so workers can most effectively engage with the space and one another.”
Much more detail about the project can be found here. My final comments on it: I want to visit (on a pleasant spring or summer day when a pandemic isn’t raging).