Michigan Central Station (also known as Michigan Central Depot or MCS) is the historic former main intercity passenger rail station in Detroit, Michigan. Built for the Michigan Central Railroad, it replaced the original depot in downtown Detroit, which was shuttered after a major fire on December 26, 1913, forcing the still unfinished station into early service. Formally dedicated on January 4, 1914, the station remained open for business until the cessation of Amtrak service on January 6, 1988. The station building consists of a train depot and an office tower with thirteen stories, two mezzanine levels, and a roof height of 230 feet (70 m). The Beaux-Arts style architecture was designed by architects who had previously worked together on Grand Central Terminal in New York, and it was the tallest rail station in the world at the time of its constr...Read more

Michigan Central Station (also known as Michigan Central Depot or MCS) is the historic former main intercity passenger rail station in Detroit, Michigan. Built for the Michigan Central Railroad, it replaced the original depot in downtown Detroit, which was shuttered after a major fire on December 26, 1913, forcing the still unfinished station into early service. Formally dedicated on January 4, 1914, the station remained open for business until the cessation of Amtrak service on January 6, 1988. The station building consists of a train depot and an office tower with thirteen stories, two mezzanine levels, and a roof height of 230 feet (70 m). The Beaux-Arts style architecture was designed by architects who had previously worked together on Grand Central Terminal in New York, and it was the tallest rail station in the world at the time of its construction.

The building is located in the Corktown district of Detroit near the Ambassador Bridge, approximately 34 mi (1.2 km) southwest of downtown Detroit. It is located behind Roosevelt Park, and the Roosevelt Warehouse is adjacent to the east, with a tunnel connection to the MCS. The city's Roosevelt Park serves as a grand entryway to the station. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Images of the building's deterioration remain a premier example of ruins photography. The building has also been featured in several television programs, films and music videos.

Since 2011 restoration projects and plans had gone as far as the negotiation process, but none had come to fruition until May 2018 when Ford Motor Company purchased the building for redevelopment into a mixed use facility and cornerstone of the company's new Corktown campus. After years of extensive exterior and interior renovation, exceeding $740 million, the station is anticipated to reopen to the public on June 6, 2024.

As an active station

The building began operating as Detroit's main passenger depot in 1913 after the older Michigan Central Station burned on December 26, 1913. It was owned and operated by Michigan Central Railroad and was planned as part of a large project that included the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel below the Detroit River for freight and passengers. The old station was located on a spur line, which was inconvenient for the high volume of passengers it served. The new Michigan Central placed passenger service on the main line.

 Postcard of the Michigan Central Station (c. 1914)

The growing trend toward increased automobile use was not a large concern in 1912, as is evident in the design of the building. Most passengers would arrive at and leave from Michigan Central Station by interurban service or streetcar, due to the station's distance from downtown Detroit. The station was placed away from downtown in order to stimulate related development to come in its direction.[citation needed] An ambitious project to connect the station to the Cultural Center via a wide boulevard was never realized.[1] Nonetheless, the station remained active for several decades. The trains of the New York Central Railroad, the company which acquired the Michigan Central Railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Canadian Pacific Railway operated from the station.

At the beginning of World War I, the peak of rail travel in the United States, more than 200 trains left the station each day and lines would stretch from the boarding gates to the main entrance. In the 1940s, more than 4,000 passengers a day used the station and more than 3,000 people worked in its office tower. Among notable passengers arriving at MCS were Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt, actor Charlie Chaplin, inventor Thomas Edison and artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The other major station of Detroit was the Fort Street Union Depot.

In the 1920s Henry Ford began to buy land near the station and made construction plans, but the Great Depression and other circumstances squelched this and many other development efforts.[citation needed] The original design included no large parking facility. When the interurban service was discontinued less than two decades after MCS opened, the station was effectively isolated from the large majority of the population who drove cars and needed parking to use the facility.

Named trains

Major trains and destinations included:

Baltimore & Ohio Ambassador to New York City (Jersey City CNJ terminal) via Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, D.C. Shenandoah, route as above Cincinnatian, to Cincinnati via Toledo and Dayton Great Lakes Limited, to Louisville via Toledo, Dayton and Cincinnati New York Central Canadian, to Montreal and later, Canadian-Niagara from Chicago in the west, to Buffalo and Toronto in the east (with Canadian Pacific carrying from Detroit to Toronto) Dominion-Overseas, to Montreal Chicago Mercury, to Chicago Cleveland Mercury, to Cleveland Detroiter, to New York City Empire State Express, to New York City[2] Mercury, Chicago to the west, Cleveland to the east New York Special, Chicago to the west, to New York City to the east, via Southwestern Ontario North Shore Limited (westbound only), to Chicago to the west, from Toronto (pooled with Canadian Pacific's Chicago Express) and New York City in the east Northerner, to Mackinaw City, Michigan via Bay City, Michigan Ohio Special (northbound: Michigan Special), to Cincinnati via Toledo and Dayton Queen City, to Cincinnati via Toledo and Dayton Timberliner, to Mackinaw City, Michigan via Bay City, Michigan Twilight Limited, to Chicago Wolverine, Chicago to New York City via Southwestern OntarioDecline and abandonment  The station in 1955

Passenger volume did not decrease immediately. During World War II, the station was used heavily by military troops.[2] After the war, with a growth in automobile ownership, people used trains less frequently for vacation or other travel. Service was reduced and passenger traffic became so low that the New York Central attempted to sell the facility in 1956 for US$5 million, one-third of its original 1913 building cost. Another attempted sale in 1963 failed for lack of buyers. In 1967, maintenance costs were seen as too high relative to the decreasing passenger volume. The restaurant, arcade shops, and main entrance were closed, along with much of the main waiting room. This left only two ticket windows to serve passengers and visitors, who used the same parking-lot entrance as railroad employees working in the building.

Meanwhile, service to destinations was curtailed. By 1960 the New York Central ended its direct service south to Toledo, on its own timetable yielding that responsibility to the B&O.[3] In 1963 the B&O moved its trains over to the Fort Street Union Depot. The New York Central ended the last of its trains bound north for Bay City in 1964.[4] The pooled New York Central/Central Pacific trains were discontinued and the Canadian Pacific trains to Windsor ended in 1967; and the New York Central ended its named trains by the close of 1967. Any remaining New York Central trains were segmented operations between major cities.[5][6] The trains run by the NYC's successor in 1968, the Penn Central continued the segmented operations at the station.

 Michigan Central Station 1988

Amtrak assumed operation of the nation's passenger rail service in 1971, reopening the main waiting room and entrance in 1975. It started a $1.25 million renovation project in 1978. Six years later, the building was sold for a transportation center project that never materialized. On January 6, 1988, the last Amtrak train pulled away from the station after owners decided to close the facility.[7] Amtrak service continued at a platform on Rose Street near the former station building until the new Detroit station opened several miles away in New Center in 1994.[8] In July 1992, the Detroit Master Plan of Policies for the southwest sector's urban design identified the station as an attractive or interesting feature to be recognized, enhanced and promoted.[9]

Moroun ownership

Controlled Terminals Inc. acquired the station in 1996. Its sister company, the Detroit International Bridge Co., owns the nearby Ambassador Bridge and both are part of a group of transportation-related companies which were owned by late businessman Manuel Moroun, Chairman and CEO of CenTra Inc.[10][11] The company demolished the train shed in 2000, and converted the remaining tracks and platforms into an intermodal freight facility, named "Expressway" and operated by Canadian Pacific Railway. This facility was closed in June 2004.[12]

 MCRR Terminal track diagram (1914)

In 2004, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced that the city was pursuing options to relocate its Detroit Police Department headquarters and possibly consolidate other law enforcement offices to MCS. However, in mid-2005, the city canceled the plan and chose to renovate its existing headquarters.[13] In 2006 it was proposed that the station be redeveloped into a Trade Processing Center adapting the station as a customs and international trade processing center due to its proximity to the Ambassador Bridge.[13] Although the City of Detroit considered the building a "Priority Cultural Site" in 2006, the City Council on April 7, 2009, passed a resolution to demolish the structure.[14][15] Seven days later, Detroit resident Stanley Christmas sued the city of Detroit to stop the demolition effort, citing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.[16]

In 2008, the station owners said that their goal was to renovate the decaying building. The estimated cost of renovations was $80 million, but the owners viewed finding the right use as a greater problem than financing.[17] Moroun proposed making the station into a convention center and casino.[10] Such a project would have cost $1.2 billion, including $300 million to restore the station. Dan Stamper, president of Detroit International Bridge, noted that the station should have been used as one of the city's casinos.[17] In 2010, State Senator Cameron S. Brown and Mickey Bashfield, a government relations official for the building owner CenTra Inc., suggested that the station could become the Detroit headquarters of the Michigan State Police, include some United States Department of Homeland Security offices, and serve as a center for trade inspections.[18] The development never came to fruition.

 Before window re-installation (2010)

On March 25, 2011, in an effort to push forward a potential sale and redevelopment, Dan Stamper, spokesperson for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun, announced plans to work with the City of Detroit on funding replacement of the tower's roof, and installing new windows on the structure. Stamper told The Detroit News: "It would be much easier to help a developer to come up with a package to use the depot if some improvements were made."[19] In June 2011, work began on partial asbestos abatement on the first floor; other work conducted included interior demolition work, removal of broken glass from first floor windows, and removal of water.[20] In June 2012, electricity was restored to the interior. Lights then illuminated the main lobby.

On May 5, 2011, the Detroit International Bridge Company announced it engaged the Ann Arbor firm of Quinn Evans on behalf of the Moroun family that owned the building to oversee restoration of the roof and windows of the structure. Bridge Company owner Moroun stated, "We hope this is just the beginning of a renaissance for the depot."[21] The once flooded basement was largely drained, with about 4 inches (10 cm) of water at its highest still remaining in a sub-basement of the building.

On June 10, 2014, it was reported that the owners of Michigan Central Station were moving forward with about $676,000 in rehab work, and had received permits to install a new 9,000-pound capacity freight elevator, which will allow for the smooth installation of new windows and roof work.[22] In late 2014 work to install the elevator began.[23]

In February 2015, the owners announced that they would replace more than 1,000 windows above the first level. In late April the city announced a land swap deal with the Bridge Company to transfer a 3-acre strip of Riverside Park near the Ambassador Bridge for 4.8 acres of adjacent property owned by the Bridge Company. As part of that agreement, the city would receive up to $5 million for park improvements, and the Bridge Company agreed to replace the windows in the train station.[24] In July the Detroit City Council approved the land transfer.[25] As of December 2015, all of the new windows have been installed.[26][27]

By August of 2016 the Moroun family had spent 10 years and $12 million on electricity, windows, and the elevator shaft, to revitalize the building. Matthew Moroun considered putting part of his family's operations in the 18-story Corktown building. In September 2017 the "Detroit Homecoming" event was held in the station, the first legal event to occur there since the building's closure in 1988.[28]

Ford ownership

On March 20, 2018, The Detroit News published an article noting the Ford Motor Company was in talks to buy the structure.[29][30] On May 22, 2018, ownership of the building was transferred from the Moroun-owned MCS Crown Land Development Co. LLC to New Investment Properties I LLC. Ford's representatives neither confirmed nor denied if this ownership exchange was made by them.[31]

The Moroun family confirmed on June 11, 2018, that Ford was the new owner of the building.[32] Ford purchased the station along with the Roosevelt Warehouse.[33] Ford planned to turn the building into a hub for its autonomous vehicle development and deployment, and as an anchor for the company's Corktown campus. The building would hold both Ford offices and offices of suppliers and partner companies. The first floor concourse would reopen to the public with restaurants and retail. Housing will also be created on the top floors. Restoration and renovations were then anticipated to be completed by 2022.[34][35]

On June 19, 2018, Ford held a community celebration, in which local rapper Big Sean performed, and the building was opened to the public for the first time since its closure in the 1980s. According to local Detroit media outlets, Ford planned to renovate the station, the warehouse next door, and complete construction on the rest of its campus within four years, and is part of the company's $1 billion capital improvements project, which also included the creation of a development on the West side of Dearborn, Michigan, as well as a renovation of the company's main headquarters in Dearborn. As part of that $1 billion, Ford Land was seeking at least $250 million in tax and other incentives, and claimed that the project would not be financially feasible without the support of incentives.[36]

CEO of Ford Land, Dave Dubensky, stated during an interview with the Detroit Free Press that Ford planned to retain four of the passenger tracks at MCS in the event that Amtrak returns from the station in New Center as well as for potential commuter rail.[37] Previous Amtrak routes that utilized MCS included the Wolverine, Lake Cities, Twilight Limited, and Niagara Rainbow.[38] There have been other rail related projects in the area around the station in recent years. In 2010, The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $244 million in grants for high-speed rail upgrades between Chicago and Detroit.[39]

In December 2018 Ford began Phase I of the building restoration. The work involved drying out the building and reinforcement of structural columns and archways.[40] Phase II began in May 2019 and consisted of masonry restoration of the tower and concourse, retiling of the ceiling of the waiting room, and repair of the structural steel.[41] 3-D scanning technology was used to recreate architectural details lost to exposure and vandalism.[42] Restoration work on the building's masonry facade began in 2021.[43] In January 2024 Ford announced that they were seeking a zoning change that would allow for the development of a hotel on the top two or three floors the station building.[44] The station scheduled to reopen to the public on June 6.[45]

^ Hill, Eric J. & Gallagher, John (2002). AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-8143-3120-0. ^ a b Marcus, Jonathan. "Michigan Central and the rebirth of Detroit". BBC News. Retrieved July 19, 2019. ^ New York Central timetable, April 1960, Table 15 ^ New York Central timetable, April 1964 ^ New York Central timetable, November 1967 ^ New York Central timetable, December 1967 ^ McConnon, Aili (January 21, 2020). "Detroit's Revival Is Anchored in Its Train Station". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 22, 2020. ^ "National Timetable Spring/Summer 1994". Amtrak. May 1, 1994. Retrieved November 5, 2011. ^ "Southwest Sector Policies, Article 309, POLICY 309-7" (PDF). City of Detroit. July 1002. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ a b Fitch, Stephanie & Muller, Joann (November 15, 2004). "The Troll Under the Bridge". Forbes. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ Voyles, S. (May–June 2009). "The Man Behind the Bridge – Matty Moroun Talks about Detroit, Business and Being Sentimental". Corp!. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ "Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal Summary" (PDF). State of Michigan. Retrieved February 12, 2015. ^ a b Mullen, Ann (August 6, 2006). "On Track". Metro Times. Detroit. Retrieved July 29, 2008. ^ "Non-motorized Urban Transportation Master Plan" (PDF). City of Detroit. June 2006. p. 20. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ "City Council Votes To Demolish Depot". WDIV News. April 7, 2009. Archived from the original on June 10, 2009. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ "Lawsuit Filed In Train Depot's Future". WDIV News. April 8, 2009. Archived from the original on January 16, 2010. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ a b Aguilar, Louis (April 8, 2008). "Michigan Central Depot owners say 'Roll 'em!". The Detroit News. Retrieved July 29, 2008. ^ "New York Times asks: What's to be done with Michigan Central Station?". Model D. March 9, 2010. ^ Greenwood, Tom (March 25, 2011). "Decaying Central Depot to get spruce-up". The Detroit News. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ "Moroun family making progress on Michigan Central Station rehabilitation". MLive. Associated Press. August 25, 2011. ^ Gallagher, John (May 5, 2011). "Bridge Company moves ahead with Michigan Central Depot restoration". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ Muller, David (June 10, 2014). "Permits pulled for $676,000 in work on Michigan Central Station". Mlive. Retrieved June 29, 2014. ^ Thibodeau, Ian (December 22, 2014). "Service elevator to be installed in Michigan Central Station by early 2015". MLive. ^ Guillen, Joe (April 29, 2015). "Riverside Park, depot to get face-lifts in land swap". Detroit Free Press. ^ Aguilar, Louis (July 28, 2015). "Detroit council approves Riverside Park deal". The Detroit News. ^ Gallagher, John (August 13, 2015). "Train depot progress report: About 60% new windows". Detroit Free Press. ^ Thibodeau, Ian (February 4, 2016). "Windows at Michigan Central Station completed on time and budget". M Live. Retrieved June 22, 2016. ^ Roskopp, Jack (September 14, 2017). "The Michigan Central Station light show is the coolest thing you'll see all week". Metro Times. Detroit. ^ Schreiber, Ronnie (March 20, 2018). "Ruin Porn No More? Ford Reportedly in Talks to Buy Michigan Central Depot". The Truth About Cars. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Thibodeau, Ian; Aguilar, Louis (March 19, 2018). "Ford in talks to buy Michigan Central Depot". The Detroit News. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Runyan, Robin (May 30, 2018). "Report: Michigan Central Station has a new owner". Curbed Detroit. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Livengood, Chad (June 11, 2018). "Moroun confirms Detroit train station sold to Ford: 'Blue Oval will adorn the building'". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Reindl, JC; Gallagher, John (June 11, 2018). "It's official: Morouns sell Detroit train station to Ford". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Livengood, Chad (June 17, 2018). "Ford's future: Train station to be part of new transportation model". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Reindl, JC (June 19, 2018). "Ford says it plans to put housing in Detroit train station". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Burton, Cindy (August 15, 2018). "Ford says it will spend $740M to bring Detroit train station project to life". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Riley, Rochelle (June 24, 2018). "Ford is keeping the passenger tracks at Michigan Central Station". Detroit Free Press. ^ Riley, Rochelle (June 24, 2018). "Ford is keeping the passenger tracks at Michigan Central Station". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 27, 2019. ^ Bomey, Nathan (January 28, 2010). "High-speed rail grants include $244 million for Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak improvements". Ann Arbor News. Retrieved May 5, 2011. ^ Runyan, Robin (December 4, 2018). "Michigan Central Station renovations start with winterization". Curbed Detroit. Retrieved September 23, 2019. ^ "FORD CORKTOWN PROJECTS & MICHIGAN CENTRAL STATION, Community Benefits Update Meeting, December 10, 2019" (PDF). City of Detroit. Retrieved June 12, 2020. ^ Szczesny, Joseph (November 6, 2020). "Ford Using New Technology to Help Restoration of Old Train Station". The Detroit Bureau. Retrieved November 5, 2021. ^ Ainsworth, Amber (October 12, 2021). "Last capital stone installed on Michigan Central Station façade; roof restoration is next". FOX2 Detroit. Retrieved November 5, 2021. ^ "Ford seeks to add hotel to Michigan Central project". Trains magazine. Kalmbach Media. January 31, 2024. Retrieved February 20, 2024. ^ Cite error: The named reference REOPEN was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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