For a while now, Detroit has been struggling. The City itself had to declare bankruptcy several years ago, but what’s interesting is this is a city that just won’t quit. While many people blame the automotive industry for various ailments that plague North America, it is what keeps Detroit going. Sure, they’ve had their ups and downs, but it looks like they’re starting to make a comeback. As Ford gets closer to its 115th anniversary, they are celebrating with the purchase of an iconic Detroit landmark. But why are they making this purchase? Because they are looking toward the concept of smart cities and the future that it holds.
Michigan Central (train) Station has served as the main passenger hub for Detroit since it opened in 1913, but the train station and 18 story office tower has been empty and unused since 1988. Ford plans on restoring the station in order to make it a part of Ford’s Corktown campus. Their intention is to have 2,500 Ford employees working in the area by 2022, plus 2,500 employees from other businesses. It’s anticipated that there will be work on “autonomous and electric vehicles, and design urban mobility services and solutions that include smart, connected vehicles, roads, parking and public transit.” They will use the rest of the space for residential, retail and community space.
This is all great news! I mean, why aren’t more organizations taking this kind of initiative. Technology is making our world a rapidly changing place, so instead of pushing against it, these companies should be embracing it and making changes. Which is what Ford is doing. If you’ve ever been to Detroit, then you will know that there are a lot of areas in the city with run down and abandoned buildings. At one time, some of these buildings were iconic, so I’m also happy to see that they’re taking an existing facility and bringing it back to life.
Ford’s goal with this new campus is to create a “mobility corridor”, which will tie research hubs to testing and development hubs between Ann Arbour, Dearborn, and Detroit. You might remember that Ford announced in January plans to develop an open cloud-based platform for cities to use to manage all the disparate transportation modes (as well as data) happening at any given time. The idea is for the platform to help cities optimize their various modes of transit and provide a way for everything in the city, such as stop lights, signs and even bikes to speak to each other and share information.
Some suggest that this is going to replace the Dearborn campus, but Ford is reassuring everyone that it will actually make it one complete system. Ford says that they are still working on the redesign of their Dearborn campus, which they started back in 2016. This will continue in parallel with the Corktown campus development. In fact, the 150,000 square foot Wagner Place development in West Dearborn is expected to open this summer. This particular acquisition follows Ford’s purchase of the former Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, which is the site of an old brass factory.
I think that more organizations need to take these old facilities and make them new again. That’s not to say that there isn’t a time or place for an Apple Park (for example), but at the same time, they need to be cognizant that by restoring these older facilities, they are actually bringing life back into the community. Ford should be commended for this aspect, as well as revising their vision to better understand that their future goals should be centered around technology.