Renovation work restarts on iconic Detroit train station

Restoration continues at Michigan Central train station despite coronavirus pandemic

DETROIT – Restoration work is moving ahead at the Michigan Central train station in Detroit despite the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

Work on the project stopped for seven weeks due to a statewide stay-at-home order aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. But crews are now in the middle of Phase Two of the project, which involves fixing the street structure and repairing masonry, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Brick and terra cotta masonry on the building’s exterior is being cleaned and repaired. Nearly 300 limestone blocks are being replaced.

Ford Motor Co. bought the iconic building just outside downtown in 2018 for research and development of self-driving vehicles.

“While the virus has impacted our project in some ways due to availability of the workforce, materials and logistics, there hasn’t been any fundamental shifts to our overall development plan,” Ford spokeswoman Christina Twelftree told the newspaper.

Bob Roberts, co-owner of nearby McShane’s Irish Pub and president of the Corktown Business Association, said he worried the renovation project would die.

But Ford spokesperson T.R. Reid said explicitly that, “there’s been no change to our plans” involving the train station.

“It’s important to have this developed,” Roberts said. “Within four weeks of the actual (coronavirus) shutdown, there was a rumor taking place that Ford was going to keep part of their footprint with this project, but the actual train station itself was going to have to be put up for sale.”

Work on the 500,000-square-foot (46,000-square-meter) building is still expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

The 105-year-old building that once handled all of Detroit’s passenger rail traffic closed in 1988 due to a decline in ridership and took on a new life in the subsequent years as a must-see destination for urban explorers, the homeless and scavengers, who picked it clean of anything valuable.

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