Ford Reveals Plans for Detroit's Corktown Campus and Michigan Central Station

Ford's new digs in Detroit will be as crucial to its future as the Rouge plant was to its past.

Ford Announces Its Plans For Detroit's Historic Michigan Central Station
Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

Ford is celebrating its 115th anniversary week by making big announcements regarding its recent acquisitions in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, which include the iconic Michigan Central Station, the former Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, and other key structures and plots of land in the area.

Although the purchase of the station was made public last week, today Ford officially acknowledged that it is the new proprietor of the legendary Detroit building, and it confirmed that the new Corktown campus will be a hub where Ford and its partners will work on autonomous and electric vehicles. Other duties that will be performed at the 1.2-million-square-foot facility will include space design, urban mobility services, and solutions that include smart, connected vehicles, roads, parking and public transit.

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Several improvements were already performed ahead of the press conference.

“Michigan Central Station is a place that in many ways tells the story of Detroit over the past century,” said Bill Ford, the company’s executive chairman. “We at Ford want to help write the next chapter, working together in Corktown with the best startups, the smartest talent, and the thinkers, engineers, and problem-solvers who see things differently—all to shape the future of mobility and transportation.”

The Blue Oval also confirmed that approximately 2,500 Ford employees, most from the mobility team, will call Corktown their work home by 2022, which means that all the facilities the automaker just acquired will undergo a three- to four-year renovation process. In addition, Ford's main campus in Dearborn has been undergoing renovations since 2016, as is a driving dynamics lab located on Ford’s Product Development Campus. All in all, the 10-year Dearborn plan will also continue to bring key workgroups closer together, including the company’s product development teams to one main campus.

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The stage ahead of the big announcement.

“What Rouge [Plant] was to Ford in the industrial age, Corktown can be for Ford in the information age,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett. “It will be the proving ground where Ford and our partners design and test the services and solutions for the way people are going to live and get around tomorrow, creating a Southeast Michigan mobility corridor that spans west from Dearborn to Ann Arbor, and east to Detroit.”

Several speakers took the stage during the televised press conference at the Michigan Central Station on Tuesday, where each one of them shared their personal experiences with the Corktown neighborhood. However, some of the most heartfelt stories had to do with Ford's history in the vicinity. After all, it was Ford’s Highland Park plant that helped create America’s middle class when no such concept existed, and Willow Run built the planes and tanks that helped the United States win World War II. Meanwhile, the Rouge Plant, where the current F-150 is built, has been putting the world on wheels and helping grow the middle class for more than 100 years.

"The future of Ford is here, in Detroit, added Hackett at the event. "And Bill’s [Ford] grandchildren will one day look out the window and see the Michigan Central Station just like Bill did at Rouge at some stage."