Ford unveils plans for 12ha mobility innovation centre in Detroit

The Ford Motor Company has announced plans for a 12ha regeneration project in central Detroit. According to Ford, Michigan Central will be an "inclusive, vibrant and walkable mobility innovation district" based on the Michigan Central Station, a beaux art icon that the car-maker bought in 2018 after it fell into dereliction.

The company aims to turn the district into a mobility testing platform with abundant green space, biking trails, cafés, shuttles, scooters, retailers, grocery stores, day care, housing and parking, with nothing more than a 20-minute walk away.

The lead architect for Michigan Central will be New York’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), which published its site plan at a virtual meeting on 17 November.

The plan was developed after 18-months of research and consultation with stakeholders from the city and community.

Mary Culler, Ford’s Detroit development director, commented: "This project is about preparing Ford for another century of innovation and success. We are taking a collaborative approach to innovation, including providing flexible work spaces that attract and engage the best minds to solve complex transportation and related challenges as we shape the future of mobility together."

The regenerated quarter will house 5,000 Ford employees, and will be anchored by the refurbished station and three other buildings.

One is the Book Depository, which sits adjacent to the station, and is being turned into an incubator by Californian architect Gensler. There will also be Building West, a new-build project to the west of the station, and the Factory, which is already home to 250 members of Ford’s autonomous vehicle business unit.

There will also be what Ford calls a "first-of-its-kind mobility platform" on the elevated train tracks behind the station.

According to PAU, this will provide Ford and its innovation partners with a space to "publicly showcase emerging technology, including autonomous concept vehicles and micro-mobility transportation initiatives".

The testing platform will be made available to companies around the world interested in new forms of transport, who will be able to test their ideas on the streets of Michigan Central.

The development is part of a number of schemes to regenerate Detroit, a city that has experience traumatic deindustrialisation and the loss of around 60% of its population.

PAU says its plan will dovetail with a number of other regeneration schemes, such as the West Riverfront Park greenway and Detroit Planning and Development Department’s masterplan for Michigan Avenue and North Corktown, "ensuring that the reimagined neighbourhood around the station is integrated with the City’s broader initiatives".

Image: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism’s rendering of the site, showing the refurbished Michigan Central station

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