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Ford unveils plans for mobility innovation district around Michigan Central Station

Along with a first-of-its-kind mobility testing platform and new open spaces, the site plan prioritises the needs of the community with sustainable amenities and recommends abundant green space and biking trails.

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Arrival platform. Image courtesy of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism
Arrival platform. Image courtesy of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Ford Motor Company has unveiled plans for an innovation mobility district around Michigan Central Station in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood.

 

The vision includes an open platform for innovators, start-ups, entrepreneurs and other partners from around the world to develop, test and launch new mobility solutions on real-world streets, in real-world situations. It will also include plans for some of the district’s first buildings.

 

Walkable community

 

The 30-acre site plan, developed by lead architect and strategic planner pau.studio/">Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), envisions a walkable community, anchored by the train station. It will prioritise the needs of residents and businesses, as well as the 5,000 employees who work there, connect with the surrounding neighbourhoods and city, and preserve the history of the area with a mix of old and new.

 

In 2018, executive chairman Bill Ford announced plans to restore Detroit’s once world-class train station, abandoned since 1988, as the centerpiece of an innovation hub to help define the way people and goods will move around in the future.

 

“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.”

 

Four key buildings make up the development – Michigan Central Station, the Book Depository, which sits adjacent to the station and is being revitalised 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.

“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”

Central to the plan is what claims to be 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.

 

The plan was guided by three core design themes:

  • Concentrate density around Michigan Central Station
  • Build a walkable area through a unique grouping of buildings and shared spaces
  • Co-create a neighborhood of the future, by everyone, for everyone

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.

 

Bagley Parking Hub South View. Image courtesy of Rossetti
Bagley Parking Hub South View. Image courtesy of Rossetti
Michigan Central aerial view. Image courtesy of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism
Michigan Central aerial view. Image courtesy of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Michigan Central will also be a node on the state of Michigan’s proposed connected and autonomous vehicle corridor running from Detroit to Dearborn to Ann Arbor, linking the district to a broader regional network of testing, research and innovation. Ford is one of the founding partners of this groundbreaking project, working with Cavnue and other collaborators.

 

“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.”

 

Micro-mobility hub

 

The parking structure will also serve as a mobility hub, offering micro-mobility solutions like e-bikes and scooters. A shuttle service to move workers and goods within the mobility innovation district may also support residents living in the impact area.

 

Work on the Book Depository and Bagley Parking Hub will begin in the first quarter of 2021, with both buildings expected to open in early 2022. Michigan Central Station is currently in the middle of phase two of the restoration, the most labour-intensive part of the project focused on fixing the steel structure and repairing eight acres of masonry. Ford is still on track to complete the station by the end of 2022.

 

“We have tremendous momentum, despite the pandemic, as we work with others to bring our vision to life in Corktown,” said Culler. “Through purposeful planning, design and partnerships, we will be inspiring innovation by promoting interaction between our employees, partners, tenants and the broader community. The goal is to work with innovators who want to join us in creating something truly unique that brings renewed opportunities, sustainability and vitality to the area.”

 

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