This post was authored by Curbed contributor MJ Galbraith.
If Toby Barlow had a foursquare check-in at Curbed Detroit HQ for every time his name was mentioned on this site, he'd have ousted our editor as Mayor long ago. He's an author, ad man, and now infamous Detroit's-great-why-don't-you-move-here booster/strongman and it was only a matter of time before Barlow threw his hat in the Re-imagining Detroit Building ring. His suggestion, however, may be a bit of a surprise.
Barlow picked the historic Highland Park Ford Plant. Located at Woodward and Manchester avenues, the Ford Plant was home of the Model T and where the assembly line was first used for automobile manufacturing. It was designed by Detroit architect all star Albert Kahn and started churning out Model T's in 1913. Barlow believes that the building's historic pedigree has the potential to transform the region much like it did 100 years ago. The fact that it's in Highland Park only makes the site that much more attractive to Barlow. Says he:
The Highland Park factory is historic and, despite its current state of neglect, it has the potential for incredible architectural beauty. Unlike the Packard Plant, it has been maintained, not abandoned. With Albert Kahn's extensive use of windows and natural lighting, the former model-T plant is a natural subject for dramatic re-imagining and the fact that it was the sight of the first large scale assembly line makes it an ideal subject for renewed attention. Finally, its Historic Landmark status makes it eligible, I'm sure, for all sorts of tax credits. So, this can be done. If I were a genie, I would expand a school like Lawrence Tech into a new Highland Park campus, built around the Highland Park Factory campus. There would be engineering research facilities, new housing, a field house, full athletic facilities, shopping and more. Geographically it makes perfect sense, because being lodged between Woodward, Davidson, 1-75 and the 10, it's one of the most accessible parts of the region.
Images via wikipedia
Let's hope he gets his wish. Word is that Ford still uses part of the building for storing old documents, Detroit's last streetcar, and the Ark of the Covenant but, let's face it, that does diddly squat for the surrounding neighborhood and the region as a whole. Barlow says the redevelopment of this Highland Park anchor could not only help out Highland Park but also "bring up the real estate values in the beautiful and undervalued adjacent neighborhoods such as Boston Edison, Palmer Woods, etc." It's a shame such a historic and potent building such as the Highland Park Ford Plant has been reduced to an over-sized filing cabinet. We think it may be time for Ford to find a new warehouse (something tells us they won't have trouble finding one).
· All Re-imagining Detroit Buildings coverage [Curbed Detroit]