Detroit, Michigan, USA
The Ford Motor Company has released plans for a 30-acre regeneration project in central Detroit. According to Ford, Michigan Central will be an “inclusive, vibrant and walkable mobility innovation district” based on the Michigan Central Station, a Beaux Art landmark that the car-maker bought in 2018 after it fell into dereliction.
Ford’s vision for a 30-acre walkable community anchored by iconic Michigan Central Station is part of its plan to reshape the future of global mobility, working with other partners and connecting to a broader network of city and regional assets and innovation.
Along with a first-of-its-kind mobility testing platform and new open spaces, the site plan prioritizes the needs of the community with sustainable amenities; recommends abundant green space, biking trails, cafés, shuttles, scooters, retailers, grocery stores, daycare, housing and parking all within a 20-minute walk.
The industrial heart of the innovation district will be the revitalized Albert Kahn-designed Book Depository, to be transformed as a mixed-use maker space offering flexible workspaces, hands-on labs and innovation studios to spur collaboration.
The 30-acre site plan, developed by lead architect and strategic planner Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, envisions a walkable community, anchored by the train station. It will prioritize the needs of residents and businesses, as well as the 5,000 employees who work there, connect with the surrounding neighborhoods and city, and preserve the history of the area with a mix of old and new.
Four key buildings make up the development – Michigan Central Station, the Book Depository, which sits adjacent to the station and is being revitalized into a maker space by architecture firm Gensler, Building West, a new construction to the west of the station, and The Factory, already home to 250 members of Ford’s autonomous vehicle business unit. 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.
Every aspect of the design encourages the kind of spontaneous connections that build community, create partnerships and drive innovation.
The site plan is the result of a community-based 18-month research and planning process and reflects more than 100 hours of discussions between Ford and key stakeholders from the city and community.
Driven by feedback from residents, the plan calls for more public amenities, green spaces, walking and biking trails, public art and open areas that can be activated and used in all-weather conditions. It ensures the station’s magnificent views will not be blocked and that Southwest Detroit residents can easily access and enjoy the district, a key ask from the community.
The site plan meets Detroit’s goal to develop walkable neighborhoods, full of quality retail, open space, amenities and multimodal transit options within 20 minutes. To foster vibrancy and density, the plan envisions a range of housing options alongside new public amenities like a grocery store and daycare facility.
“Few works of architecture better embody the past, present and future of Detroit like Michigan Central Station. This plan – led by Ford and forged in collaboration with local stakeholders – provides a vision for how the reimagined station, with the public spaces and buildings that surround it, can together become a unique and authentic destination for community members, innovators and visitors alike,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder and creative director of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism.
“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.”
Architects: Practice for Architecture (PAU)
Client: Ford Motor Company