Decades of decadence in former glory – A look at Ford’s transformation of Michigan’s Central Station
DETROIT (FOX 2) – Crews had no choice but to empty Michigan’s Central Station when work began on Detroit’s piece of history about 3½ years ago.
“When we arrived it was after 30 years of decay,” said Rich Bardelli, who oversees the station project. “When we got here there was literally nothing left.”
Check out more coverage of Michigan Central Station here.
Michigan Central Station on January 11, 2022
Ford Motor Co. purchased the building in 2018 and began a project that would include draining millions of gallons of water, stabilizing the massive structure, and meticulously restoring original features.
Michigan Central Station on January 11, 2022
With an average of 500 crew members working on the building each day, this process is getting closer and closer to completion.
“Where we are today is the reassembly, which is really the fun part. We’re starting to see all the work we’ve done over the last few years now coming together and looking like we’ve did over 100 years ago,” Bardelli said.
Michigan Central Station concourse in 1915. (Photo: Detroit Historical Society/Ford)
What Was Accomplished Inside Michigan Central Station
After years of wreckers and thieves ransacking the train depot, the crews were left with little work.
“We had to replace everything,” Bardelli said.
“Everything” includes wiring, conduit and plumbing. He said over 300 miles of new wiring and cables, over 30 miles of new conduit and about 6 miles of plumbing have been installed in the building.
Crews work inside Michigan’s Central Station on January 11, 2022
Air conditioning has also been added. The building, which opened in 1913, never had air, so Bardelli said teams had to figure out how to install it while maintaining the building’s historic look.
Bardelli said Ford worked closely with the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service throughout the project.
Following: Last capital stone installed on the facade of Michigan Central Station
The process included restoring original parts where possible and replacing parts that were not salvageable.
For example, a 3D printer was used to recreate the pieces that adorn the windows.
“When they’re painted, you can’t tell the difference between this and a cast iron part,” Bardelli said. “When you do this scan, it actually prints all the nooks and crannies that were in the scan you had.”
An unpainted 3D printed part next to the original
He noted that many of the original cast iron parts had been restored, but some parts were missing and would have been difficult to repair.
Thus, Ford chose to create the copies in resin.
“It saved us time, money and weight,” Bardelli said.
Unpainted 3D printed parts
The new bricks were also matched to the original bricks to ensure they looked like they did when the station was operational.
“We matched them very closely with the original,” Bardelli said.
SEE: 1913 note found in Stroh’s bottle at MCS
Along with figuring out how to restore the station to its former glory, the crews encountered a few surprises along the way, namely a basement they didn’t even know existed.
It was discovered after crews pumped out around 2.5 million gallons of water from underground.
Bardelli said the crews decided the best way to stabilize the building was to fill that 60,000 square foot basement. Over several weekends last summer, approximately 12,000 cubic meters of concrete were poured.
When Michigan Central Station will be completed
This final phase of the project is focused on finishing the interior of the building.
Bardelli said some major pieces are being completed this year.
The ceilings are mostly complete and crews are working on the walls to the floors. The whole building is ready for new floors.
Inside Michigan Central Station on January 11, 2022
Elevator cores are also on the way. Once installed, these will take people to hospitality suites.
Bardelli said crews are on track to have the old train depot ready for tenants by the first or second quarter of 2023.
What You’ll Find Inside Michigan Central Station
While Ford has said from the start of the project that it plans to keep the ground floor open to the public, more details on exactly what it will look like were provided this week.
The first floor of Michigan Central Station will be public and will be used as a community space.
Bardelli said there will be a cafe where drinks will be served at the old ticket booths. There will also be small shops.
In the hall there will be areas for food and spaced out for education. Bardelli said this area could eventually include libraries. There will also be an event space.
The Michigan Central Station concourse on January 11, 2022
As previously announced, Ford’s autonomous vehicle teams will occupy the rest of the building.
MCS will be the anchor of what the automaker envisions a walkable community between Corktown and southwest Detroit.
Artifacts found inside Michigan Central Station (Photo: Amber Ainsworth/FOX 2) ( )