Ford has started the first phase of the multi-year renovation of Michigan Central Station. First up: Halt the water damage that has plagued the building for years.
The massive building has been vacant for about 30 years. Ford acquired the building earlier this year, and it will serve as a centerpiece for a larger Corktown campus.
Construction will be divided into three phases. Phase one includes protecting and enclosing the building, making it safe, and drying it out. Phase two will involve updating the mechanicals and electrical systems. In phase three, the architectural features will be restored.
Expect to see many tarps, plywood, and temporary protection over the building in the coming months.
In the lobby, workers are shoring up columns and supporting archways from further damage. They’ll also be working on assessing the two-and-a-half acres of plaster in the building, and determining what needs to be restored and what needs to be replaced.
Ford will use 3D printing to create molds that will help replicate the plasterwork.
“The building is very lucky Ford stepped in when it did,” said Ronald D. Staley, executive director of the Christman-Brinker. “It would have been a lot more difficult, maybe impossible five to 10 years down the road to salvage. The first year is going to be primarily about doing core and shell work, getting the building stabilized, concrete and steel fixed, and the building enclosed.”
Exposure to the elements has led to many cracks and holes in the masonry. Dark spots seen on the outside can be attributed to water seeping through. Pumps will be installed in the basement to prevent further damage. Drying the building out—which will include natural ventilation as opposed to rapid heating to protect the historical features—is expected to take at least six months.
Replacing exterior masonry will be part of the second phase and can only be done in the appropriate weather—expect that work to take three summers. Next summer, a scaffolding system and exterior construction lift will go up outside the east end of the station.
The third phase will include creating new office space, restoring the grandeur of the Great Hall, and creating new public and retail space. In this project, Ford is preparing the train station for living and work space for the next hundred years.
Richard Hess from Quinn Evans Architects tells Curbed for Michigan, this is an “iconic, monumental building” and a “magnificent project.” But for Quinn Evans, who’s done many projects nationally, including the seven-year renovation of National Air and Space Museum, the scale of preservation in this building is something they can handle. “We’ve done these types of projects across the nation, and there’s nothing in this building that we haven’t done before.”
Ford is planning on bringing 2,500 of its own workers and 2,500 workers from partner companies into its Corktown properties. When completed, Michigan Central Station could have residences at the top, offices throughout, and retail and public space in the Grand Lobby.