By on June 11, 2018

Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The long-abandoned — and recently reglazed — Michigan Central Station building will host a Ford sign and many Ford employees in the near future, the building’s longtime former owner claims.

Matthew Moroun, son of Detroit businessman Manuel “Matty” Moroun, told Crain’s Detroit Business on Monday that the family has sold the hulking, derelict building to Ford Motor Company as part of the automaker’s wide-ranging plan to take over much of the Corktown district.

“The deal is complete,” Moroun told Crain’s ahead of this morning’s announcement. “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 for Detroit’s progress and its success.”

To some, this might sound a lot like the Ford-spurred fanfare that preceded the opening of the Renaissance Center back in the 1970s.

Moroun added that the Ford logo would adorn the 18-storey building, which opened in 1914 and closed its doors to travellers in 1988. Apparently, the Moroun family wants to focus its efforts on getting a new international bridge built. The transaction price remains a mystery, though Moroun did say the family and Ford entered into talks last October.

A schoolbook depository building adjacent to the depot also changed hands in this deal.

It was expected that Ford would make an announcement in early May, but that date came and went with no word on the building’s future. Now, Crain’s reports the Dearborn-based automaker will lay out its plans for the building — and surrounding area — on June 19th.

In recent months, reports arose that Ford was amassing a massive land claim in the area, just west of downtown, in the hopes of building a campus for its electric and self-driving vehicle efforts. The total floor area could cover 1.1 million square feet. Already, the automaker’s “Team Edison” has set up shop in a converted factory on Michigan Avenue, a stone’s throw away from the train station.

While the plan’s scope isn’t yet clear, getting the train depot and adjacent buildings ready for an influx of who-knows-how-many employees will take time and money. The Morouns sunk several million dollars into sealing up the station’s exterior and stripping it of asbestos, but the building remains a work in progress (and a must-visit attraction in America’s ruin porn mecca). The city will surely dangle tax breaks to lure the automaker back into its boundaries.

[Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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31 Comments on “Blue Light District? Ford Buys Michigan Central Station, Will Announce Plan on June 19th...”


  • avatar
    JimBot

    This is very good for the city (there will be 1000 opinions on this) .. however I want to point out that it’s VERY good because the Maroun family is no longer the custodian of this building. That family, “Matty” especially are a scourge on the city of Detroit, and their ill-fated bridge idea will be boondoggle costing them hundreds of millions of dollars, which I hope they never recoup.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      Amen.

      I hope this works. I’ve seen so many “done deals” regarding this building for so long, I hoped Ford can finally be successful.

      Maroun is 91 years old. I actually can’t believe he’s still slummin.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The Marouns are terrible slum loards in the city. Can anyone think of one property that hasn’t gone completely down the drain since being acquired by them? They make a very good argument for nationalizing critical infrastructure like major international border crossings.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      There’s a reason I always drive up to Sarnia when I cross over and back.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    –A schoolbook depository building adjacent to the depot also changed hands in this deal.—

    That might be the depository where trees are literally growing in piles of old textbooks.

    Good luck to Ford, I thought that old buildings like the station are suboptimal to convert into modern offices because of all the columns and antiquated floorplan issues.

    My cousin works at Ford HQ, will have to ask his opinion when i see him next

    • 0 avatar
      dirtyblueshirt

      Back in the early 00’s, I had the chance to URBEX both the depository and the Station. I’ll be glad to see MCS restored. As for the book depot, I don’t think there’s any real emotional attachment to that, and I see it being replaced with a perfectly average parking garage (it has the bonus of already containing a tunnel connecting it to the train station).

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “I thought that old buildings like the station are suboptimal to convert into modern offices because of all the columns and antiquated floorplan issues.” Respectfully, that rings of property developer BS. I work in a Beaux-Arts high rise that’s all of three years newer than Michigan Central Station, and it’s perfectly compatible with 21st-century work. And I used to work in an 18th-century building that was great as well. The sad reality is that we’ve reached a point where the median American–and I’m definitely not saying that’s you, mmreeses or dirtyblueshirt–no longer has lived or worked in a well built building. To them, new crap is better than 15-year-old crap, and by extension pre-WWII buildings must be really crappy. It’s a mindset that leads to things like the Atlanta Braves’ abandoning a 19-year-old stadium.

      The issue with Michigan Central Station is the deferred maintenance. How much is going to cost, and who’s going to pay for it? Location too, I suppose. You’ve got 1910s buildings in NY and Chicago that have thrived because their not isolated from potential tenants and their customers.

      I’m not anti-new building, incidentally; I’m just pro-good building. In the US, that can be a problem because ultra-short-term thinking and opportunity cost have become too big a part of the equation. (An architect friend pegs 1986 as the tipping point when new construction devolved to a point where build quality of the average building slipped over from good to bad.) New buildings can be nice–friends of mine just sold an early ’00s home that was really well put together–but in the US it’s the exception, unfortunately.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It sure beats risking surplus cash in European loser car brands or Europe in general. Lessons learned.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Detroit is coming back, the trees that Coleman and Kwame planted are finally bearing fruit.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I hope that was sarcasm. Coleman Young’s policies were one of the great reasons the city ended up where it is. I don’t understand why he was reelected so many times. Kwame while currupt, probably didn’t do to much permanent damage. If any should get credit for helping turn the city around it should probably be Dennis Archer. He really put things in motion that are now snowballing in a positive way.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        Yes, I was being sarcastic. I read a book a few years ago “Detroit: An American Autopsy” by Charlie Leduff, I couldn’t put it down, what a tragedy. I’m from Syracuse and former Detroit mayor Dave Bing is a basketball legend here, I believe he was an honest man and tried his best. Coleman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick should have both been executed for what they did to that city, especially to the police and fire fighters. I highly recommend that book. BTW, the reason Young was re-elected so many times is pretty obvious. Detroit remains the only American city to go over one million in population and then go back under.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This acquisition is more complete and total imbecilism by Ford Motor’Company under the nee guidance of Jim “File Cabinet” Hackett.

    Ford has all the space (and more) that it needs on its existing Dearborn campus.

    This Depot acquisition (along with surrounding properties) is an attempt to be cool on the riverfront, will cost a fortune to build out, and will be viewed in retrospect as a top of the market indicator for both vehicle sales/revenues and the “comeback” of Detroit (a city still in incredibly poor shape, even amongst all the hyperbole regarding it being on the way back to good health and fortune).

    ANOTHER SIGN AMONG MANY OF JIM HACKett’S INCOMPETENCE.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      You may be right. But I’m willing to wait to see what the announced plan is. It may well be that this will be a massive real estate deal, with Ford acquiring the land and selling parcels to developers.

      Properly planned and executed, such deals can make a fortune for landowners, especially in the latter stages, as parcels become more valuable. The developers and their lenders take on most of the risk, while those who acquired the land cheaply enough can make out like bandits.

      The Ford “campus” can serve as the magnet for investment, and once the surrounding area is developed, it can become the prized location for the final in-fill, especially if it’s kept low rise and leafy for ease of redevelopment.

      Overall, the project may make more money for Ford over time than building cars, so it will be interesting to see how much of ownership is the company’s and how much is the family’s.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Ford has all the space (and more) that it needs on its existing Dearborn campus.”

      LOL.

      not by a long shot.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        You are another clueless one.

        Ford is in the process of renovating Dearborn Campus at a price tag of 2 billion USD, and going vertical with the new and even existing buildings that can support additional floors.

        Ford has leased space off-campus, including at Fairlane Mall (a former Lord & Taylor) to accommodate 1,800 displaced employees while the Campus renovations are ongoing.

        The Ford HQ Campus has more than enough vacant land to add literally as many buildings as Ford could need over the next 50 years or more, if so desired and budgeted.

        GM has nearly finished a 1.6 billion dollar renovation (started out as 1 billion) of its 320-acre Warren Technical Center, renovating each existing building, adding new buildings, and also adding a new design center (that alone is costing 320 million) supervised by retired chief designer Ed Welburn.

        There are a few possibilities why Ford is acquiring the Depot property and as much adjacent property as possible, if in fact, this rumor turns out to be true post due diligence etc, and it’s NOT because they need more land and structures within 9 miles of its existing HQ in Dearborn, but they are almost all idiotic plays likely stemming from Jim HACKett’s pea brain, that are an attempt to be hip and cool and tie into the Detroit Riverfront and Corktown scene, like a bad replay of their 1976 Renaissance Center White Elephant debacle.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Ford is in the process of renovating Dearborn Campus at a price tag of 2 billion USD, and going vertical with the new and even existing buildings that can support additional floors.”

          I’m well aware.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            And yet you still made an ignorant response –

            “”“Ford has all the space (and more) that it needs on its existing Dearborn campus.”””

            *”LOL.

            not by a long shot.*”

            Are you still maintaining that Ford is short on land and space absent the rumored Depot acquisition and potential surrounding parcels?

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Sorry for being overly prickish. I could dial it back. Your LOL annoyed me for some reason. I do not like LOLs or ROTFLMAOs and such, for whatever reason.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Deadwood:

    I hope you are wrong. I drove by it last month (it’s part of my family history) and while I was impressed with the outside repairs, I found the general area quite wanting, although the efforts of local residents to maintain their structures were apparent.

    Perhaps it will spur an alternative to re-development besides the Woodward Avenue Core.

    You and I should be happy if it succeeds, after all I am certain that neither of us has any money at stake here.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Some speculators are going to get very rich from this. I asked a friend from Birmingham about real estate a few years ago and he said the best bargains were long gone.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    This could be more about marketing and talent acquisition than it is about needing space or it being the ideal type of space.

    I am at the early end of the millennial generation and it is true, I’d say as a generation, there are a LOT of us that frankly don’t desire to live and work in the suburbs, and as tied as we are to online worlds, we often desire “real” things in our non-online lives. And as iffy as Detroit is, even with the recent improvements (of which it needs a lot more), I am willing to bet that this will appeal to young talent, the kind that will be schooled in these types of advanced powertrains, and the type of people that will be excited to take part in new tech at Ford, new growth in a “real/authentic” city, and be part of the coolness of Corktown/Michigan Ave etc.

    Sorry, but getting college grads or people in their 20s or 30s to get excited about living in Plymouth, Canton, Livonia, Farmington, and commuting to a campus job in Dearborn, Warren, or Auburn Hills just is a tough sell these days, especially in Detroit/Michigan. Besides, even if you do commute, it isn’t like downtown Detroit isn’t easy to get to…it seems there is a freeway to somewhere every couple of miles down there…. and you get the reverse commute!

    But I can almost bet if you gave millennials the choice to work on advanced powertrains and self-driving in Warren (GM), Auburn Hills (FCA), or Corktown (Ford), that last one is going to be a big draw.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      This is all bullsh!t.

      I’m going to make this simple; Detroit is a sh!thole still, and no amount of sports stadiums (taxpayer subsidized to the tune of 80% to 90%) and hipster-esque hotel/restaurant/bars in the core ring (that’s 3 1/2 miles in diameter) is going to change that.

      Detroit schools are literally 3rd world-level.

      Detroit infrastructure in 90% of the city (the neighborhoods) is literally less stable and safe than barely emerging countries.

      Detroit Police & Fire are 2nd world,at best.

      Detroit has been heavily promoted by Gilbert (Quicken Loans), the Illitches (Little Caesars) and a few others who literally control 75% of the inner core ring that is very small and where money is being invested (much of it mal-invested) to try and polish a turd.

      Let’s see how many hipsters now in their 20s and very early 30s with no kids transition into viewing downtown Detroit as a safe, secure, efficient, stable place once they get married, have 2.1 kids, and need what families need.

      The amount of money it will take to make the schools, police/fire, infrastructure and other EXPENSIVE things acceptable in the neighborhoods outside the tiny Downtown core that’s had new development will cost 80x to 100x the amount spent so far,and Detroit is in very poor fiscal health, and correctness the highest property tax rate (58 millage) in the entire state.

      It’s all bullsh!t promoted by a few families having real estate holdings in the small downtown core area, who are seeking to keep their fortunes up (and likely bail before the next major Downturn).

      Detroit is not even a tourist destination at anywhere near the level of a Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Miami, Atlanta, or even Cleveland (it’s pretty much an anti-tourism city), so it also doesn’t have that cushion to fall back on.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      You’ll still need a decent transit system to get there, otherwise you may as well be driving to Dearborn. Bike paths are fantastic but kind of dependent on the season and weather.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      As someone who lives outside of Detroit let me say the reputation of the city is not good. Young professionals from outside the state are not going to flock there if there are equal opportunities elsewhere.

      As someone with a lot of family in Michigan and spends a lot of time in the Detroit metro I think the city has a worse rap than it deserves. I feel fully 100% safer anywhere in the “D” than places like Baltimore, St. Louis, Memphis or Cleveland. (And YES, I’ve been to all those places within the past 18 months.) Is Detroit rocking like the 1960’s – hell no, but it has been worse.

      Personally I think this is a fools errand for Ford. Great for Detroit but Ford shouldn’t be in the business of making Detroit great again. Ford would be better off opening an engineering center in a place that people want to live. See places like Austin, TX or the Triangle in NC. Part of what I don’t like about the “big 3” is the Detroit group-think. Diversify out and let some wacko developer turn the old depot into condos.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    This ranks right up there with dumbest business moves ever…..Right behind hiring airplane guy and furniture guy.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Deadwood:

    I hope that it’s just on this site that you manifest your cynicism. I get to Detroit about once a year and you probably get there more frequently (a member of the Detroit Institute of Art?) but I do see progress each time I go. I am impressed by the number of people I see in the downtown core on a Sunday morning. There are ever evolving pockets of progress in many areas of the city. If Detroit can keep attracting private capital, there is hope that it will find its equilibrium. albeit at a level much below what it was 60 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Its simply the wrong company doing this, that’s his only complaint. And, he needs something to b¡tch about to make himself feel important.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        You are phukking clueless and out of your element.

        GM’s silver silos are pigs (that they bought from Ford by the way) that are a boondoggle of an investment (not to mention architectural, floorplan and energy consuming pigs) that GM has had to pour more money into than if they just built brand new buildings (which they would have been far better off doing).

        Have you ever stepped foot in any of the office buildings comprising the Renaissance Center, John?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I’m there at least 2x a week assuming I’m not out west on biz.

      I know the inside scoop of the inside players, politics, and who is watching whom.

      Right now, private equity is hyping their developments like crazy so that they can flip them at a profit before the next hard downturn (some of these deals are so bad that they will NEVER turn a profit, and will be worked out between dumb money buyers and dumb money lenders at as much as a 80% discount in the aftermath – and they still may not have a chance at being profitable post-writedown; I’ve taken hard hat tours of these deals and looked at their shiny, full of sh!t, unicorn and rainbow assuming proformas).

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