Reports from earlier this week are claiming that Ford Motor Company is looking to purchase the long-vacant Michigan Central Station from the Moroun family, who also owns the Roosevelt Warehouse and the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Ford and Michael Samhat, president of the Moroun’s Crown Enterprises, are both staying silent on the alleged deal for now but Crain’s is basing their report on multiple sources close to the transaction.
The 500,000 square foot building in Corktown opened in 1913 as the tallest train station in the world with peak train departures of more than 200 per day. It shuttered its doors in 1988 and has been sitting vacant ever since the last Amtrak train pulled away. The Moroun family replaced all of its more than 1000 windows in 2015 and built a freight elevator running through the building’s smokestack. A variety of uses for the train depot have been floated in recent years including apartments and condos, office space, a movie theatre complex, and returning to its railroad roots but its biggest step forward may have been hosting last summer’s annual Detroit Homecoming for Detroit’s prominent celebrities and expats.
Ford recently announced it was planning to move 200 employees to The Factory at Corktown building to head its autonomous vehicle department. Michigan Central Station sits at roughly half the area of Ford’s current world headquarters in nearby Dearborn but with the auto company’s heavy investments planned in the suburb, it seems unlikely that the Corktown depot would strictly house Ford employees. A redevelopment of this size would take massive amounts of time and money with Samhat previously stating that the Morouns have already poured over $8 million into the building in the last five years.
With companies moving back to downtown cores to attract younger talent, Ford may be thinking of creating a Detroit campus with hotels, restaurants, and entertainment in hopes of drawing millennial workers and recent graduates to its ranks.
By Jared Hoffman
Research Associate, JMJ Phillip Group