Ford Makes Michigan Central Station its Corktown Centerpiece

The shuttered Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown district will come roaring back to life as a center for self-driving and electrified vehicle development, following the building’s purchase by Ford.

Built in 1914 and designed by the architects of New York’s Grand Central terminal, Michigan Central Station lay dormant and threatened with demolition for three decades, but Ford’s acquisition will turn the building into the centerpiece of its Corktown campus.

Ford plans to make Corktown the headquarters of its autonomous and electric vehicle businesses, developing smart and connected vehicle and infrastructure technologies.

“Michigan Central Station is a place that in many ways tells the story of Detroit over the past century,” Bill Ford, the company’s executive chairman, noted in a statement. “We at Ford want to help write the next chapter, working together in Corktown with thinkers, engineers, and problem-solvers who see things differently — all to shape the future of mobility and transportation.”

Ford’s designs for the palatial structure — the tallest train station in the world upon opening — include restoration of the grand hall to its original luster and attraction of local shops and restaurants, with a residential component as part of the mixed-used plan.

The purchase of the station follows Ford’s acquisition of the former Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, two acres of vacant land, and the site of an old brass factory as part of its Corktown campus.

Ford plans to have at least 1.2 million square feet of space in Corktown — three-quarters of which will be split between the company and its partners.

The company is also continuing with the campus transformation plan at its headquarters in Dearborn. The project, which started in 2016, includes a driving dynamics lab that is slated to open later this summer and approximately 600 data insights and analytics employees will soon occupy the Wagner Place complex.

Before renovations begin, the company is offering the public a chance to attend an open house at Michigan Central Station during the weekend of June 22, with self-guided tours, a documentary preview and an historical exhibitions on the building and Detroit.

Meanwhile, Swedish automaker Volvo is expanding its global manufacturing footprint with its first US factory.

The Charleston, S.C., plant starts production of the company’s S60 sports sedan, in the fall of 2018, and from 2021, it will also build the next generation of the XC90 SUV.

The facility includes an office building for up to 300 staff from research and development, and Volvo announced that it will create around 4,000 new jobs at the Charleston site over the coming years, with approximately 1,500 staff employed there by the end of this year.

Recently the investment arm of Volvo announced it is buying a stake in Silicon Valley Lidar startup Luminar as it speeds development of its autonomous vehicle and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) portfolio.

Launched earlier this year, Volvo’s Tech Fund focuses its investments on artificial intelligence, electrification, autonomous driving and digital mobility services.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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