Ever since it closed down in 1988, it was unconceivable that anyone would take on the task of fixing up the historic Michigan Central Station. Those dreams have now become a reality. Detroit’s most notorious symbol of decay will now become its biggest symbol of rebirth, now that Ford Motor Company has bought the 104-year-old building.
Matthew Moroun, son of billionaire transportation mogul Manuel “Matty” Moroun, confirmed the sale Monday morning at an announcement outside of the long-vacant train station. The Moroun family enterprise has owned the station since 1995.
“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. The Ford Motor Company’s Blue Oval will adorn the building.”
“I know that the city was looking for a moonshot with Amazon, but I think we got what’s really fitting for our city.”
There has been speculation for months that Ford would buy the old Detroit train station and move in. Last December, Ford announced it would bring its smart tech team to the old factory it once owned in Corktown. In early May, a mysterious buyer bought a dozen empty lots in the neighborhood surrounding the Michigan Central Station. Moroun said Ford’s plan to revitalize the 18-story building was proposed to him in mid-October of 2017. A Detroit Public Schools book storage building nearby was also included in the deal.
“I knew that this was exactly what the building needed. The golden opportunity for its rebirth. The American second chance,” Moroun said. “I also knew that it would not be possible for me and our company to co-captain such a dramatic project. The depot’s revitalization would only be part of enormous plan taking in much more than the depot itself. The developer had to be the owner and the user.”
Moroun declined to release the sale price for the landmark real estate deal, calling it a private matter. They also did not say what Ford planned to do with the landmark, which has a marveling 110,000-square-foot first-floor concourse.
Ford is planning an event June 19 at Michigan Central Station (2001 15thStreet 48216) to detail its plans for Corktown and the old train station, where Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and CEO Jim Hackett will speak at the event.
“It will be a historic day for Detroit, the auto industry and the future of Ford — the start of a new era of innovation and mobility,” the invitation said.
Over the past 20 years, the Morouns have faced intense criticism for not redeveloping the building, as it became blemished by vandalism and decay and a popular destination location for urban explorers. The City of Detroit had even voted to demolish the building in 2009 but was sued by a community activist who stated the station could not be demolished because of its historical designation.
The older Michigan Central Station burned to the ground in late 1913 and the structure that Ford just bought was opened January 4, 1914, although construction on it had begun years prior to its early grand opening. At its peak, more than 200 trains left the station each day, moving more than 4,000 passengers a day. As people in the country began to utilize other methods of transportation, including cars, highways, and airlines, the need for larger train depots declined. And on January 5, 1988, the last train bound for Chicago rolled out of Michigan Central Station.
The Moroun family has done their best job of serving as preservationists for the storied Michigan Central Station, keeping the structure standing, installing new windows in 2015, and now, making this mega-deal with Ford to bring the automobile pioneer back to its Detroit roots.
“It’s here because we bought it,” said Moroun said of the Michigan Central Station.