To celebrate its purchase of Michigan Central Station in May, the Ford Motor Company opened the once-shuttered halls of the iconic Detroit landmark to the public for an open house this past weekend.
For decades, the station’s shadow loomed over the city’s Corktown district. It stood as a visible reminder of the area’s decline. Abandoned by Amtrak in 1988, the towering structure became an empty shell. Afterward. it was the subject of several failed development concepts and constant vandalism. Although the incoming Ford era is a fresh chapter in the storied building’s more than century-long history, the open house was a public study in urban erosion.
Inside, graffiti is almost everywhere within human reach, and most surfaces from floor to ceiling bear degrees of deterioration. Despite the building’s unchanged state of disrepair, Ford’s overarching message during the event promised the opposite. The automaker emphasized rebirth, not only for the station, but also for Detroit itself. Attendees interacted with exhibit iPads by sharing their “dreams for the future of a more advanced Detroit.” Meanwhile, a large projector screen aired segments and quotes about the station and the city from the History Channel.
The automaker also focused on the station’s history by assembling a makeshift museum. Featured artwork and sequences of placards displaying images, timelines, and captions gave attendees a side-by-side sense of past and present. As for the station’s future, Ford plans to renovate it into an automotive tech campus. The automaker made it clear it is looking to advance itself and the Detroit community. And based on how many people the event attracted, the Detroit community will be paying attention to Ford’s progress.