Ford Turning Historic Detroit Train Station into Tech Hub

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After sitting dormant for 30 years, Michigan Central Station is getting a makeover courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

Michigan Central Station, once a vibrant and historic railway station in Detroit’s Corktown district, has remained shuttered since 1988. Long considered a symbol of the Motor City’s eventual downfall, the 104-year old building has been the subject of renovation ideas for years. And yet, none have ever come to fruition. But now, after months of rumors, The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Ford has purchased the building from current owner Matthew Moroun.

From the sounds of things, this isn’t just your average transaction, either. It’s an important step forward for a rebuilding city and its most famous tenant. “The deal is complete,” Moroun said. “The future of the depot is assured. The next steward of the building is the right one for its future. The depot will become a shiny symbol of Detroit’s progress and its success.”

According to the report, Ford intends to turn the historic train station into a hub of a campus for advanced automotive technology. In addition to Michigan Central Station, the deal also includes a nearby Detroit schools book depository.

It’s just the latest effort from Ford to move more of its operations into Detroit from nearby Dearborn. Last month, the automaker transferred 200 employees into a former factory site nearby. According to experts, it’s also a smart play to appease up and coming young talent.

“The Ford move to the train station is the right play at the right time,” said Robert Kolt, a professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University. “Many university grads want to work and live in cool places with an energetic vibe. Ford can remake the area and rebrand what the company does with this type of bold move.”

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“I think it’s smart,” added Robert Davidman, partner at the Fearless Agency in New York. “If you really want to attract the top talent, you go to where they are. And this allows Ford to take a piece of history and reinvent it. This makes them forward thinkers. Ford is breathing life into something that once was — Ford is going back to their roots, back to where it all began. And it brings back the luster.”

Ford revealed their plans for the site way back in March, as sort of a hub for what they call Auto 2.0. They hope to attract top talent to the site as part of the program, which focuses on self-driving and battery-powered vehicles, as well as related logistics.

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It’s a genius plan from an increasingly forward-thinking company. And it’s also one that accomplishes two important tasks at once. Ford is able to move forward in a critical segment of an ever-changing industry. And the city of Detroit gets that much closer to the revival its so deserving of.

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Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other sites.

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