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Ford begins restoration of Michigan Central Station

by Drew Johnson

The restoration process will take at least three years.

Detroit's historic Michigan Central Station is abandoned no more -- Ford announced this week that it has officially started the renovation process of the 105-year-old building that's sat dormant since 1988.

Ford, which acquired the building and surrounding properties in June, plans to restore Michigan Central Station in three phases. The first phase consists of simply drying out the building. Over the last few decades water has steadily trickled in through various cracks, holes and open windows, causing damage to the building's walls, ceiling and floors. Construction crews need the building to be dry to properly assess the water damage.

The process of drying out the 600,000 square foot structure will include patching up any exterior holes with plywood and tarpaulin, and then installing pumps and fans throughout the building. Although the evaporation process will take a rather lengthy six-months, Ford notes that accelerating the dry-out with heat could actually cause more damage to the building.

"The building is very lucky Ford stepped in when it did," said Ronald D. Staley, executive director of the Christman-Brinker joint venture selected as the construction manager for the project. "It would have been a lot more difficult, maybe impossible five to 10 years down the road to salvage. The first year is going to be primarily about doing core and shell work, getting the building stabilized, concrete and steel fixed, and the building enclosed."

Once the building is dried out, crews will begin replacing mechanical and electrical systems and restoring all of the exterior masonry. Ford expects phase two of the restoration process to be completed by the summer of 2021.

Finally, Ford will turn its attention to the interior of the former train station. Ford plans to restore the building's original plaster and decorative pieces using 3D printing technology to replace damaged or missing elements. Although the upper floors of Michigan Central Station will be reserved for Ford employees, the company says lower levels will include available office and retail space, along with areas for "public interaction."

Ford hasn't announced when Michigan Central Station will reopen its doors, but the facility is expected to bring 2,500 Ford employees the Corktown neighborhood, along with 2,500 other jobs with Ford's partners and suppliers.