DETROIT - Matthew Moroun released the following statement June 11, 2018 on his family's sale of the Michigan Central Station to Ford Motor Company:
Today is a proud day for our company and my family.
We acquired the Depot in 1992, approximately four years after the building was shut and vacated by Amtrak. The building's past glory years had faded away replaced with trespassers, vandals and what some excuse as "urban explorers." The City of Detroit was not in good shape at that time. Its manufacturing and population base had been in chronic decline. The Depot had become the symbol of Detroit's troubles.
Although my father and I believed in this building and Detroit. Many others did not. The New York Times labeled its iconic façade as an example of how far the city had fallen. The past Detroit City Councilor members in 2009 voted, resolved and ordered its demolition. At least one of our major Detroit newspapers published an editorial advocating for leveling it.
My father and I were quite alone, left only with a positive long term vision that no one else could see.
Certainly we had made acquisitions in the past that at first looked rough and later blossomed.
However, this one was different. Our critics were not just throwing words but rocks.
We held strong over many years.
The City went into to bankruptcy and came out the other side.
The politics changed from despair to hope and re-investment began.
We took action as well, ridding the building of asbestos and debris. Securing it and protecting it from vandals. Installing a large freight elevator and over one-thousand brand new windows.
Development in the downtown was spreading our way.
Re-development ideas were coming our way and simultaneously we were chasing them down.
I was convinced of two things: The building would be redeveloped and our company would do it.
The ideas and opportunities pitched to us started as far-fetched ones like aquariums, beer halls, and vertical farming. Yet, as more time and improvement in the City strengthened the ideas and opportunities became more realistic and more likely profitable.
The challenge as I saw it: Could I find a development of the caliber and uniqueness worthy of the Depot's former glory as one of the most important buildings in the City.
On October 13, 2017 a meeting was arranged by a friend that connected me to the grand development I was looking for.
I had mixed emotions. I knew that this was exactly what the building needed. The golden opportunity for its re-birth. The American second chance. I also knew that it would not be possible for me and our company to "co-captain" such dramatic project. The Depot's revitalization would only be part of enormous plan taking in much more than Depot itself. The developer had to be the owner and the user.
I would characterize the negotiations as respectful and they were not protracted in any way. The due diligence of checking out the bones of the building and formulating plans took the vast majority of the time.
The deal is complete. The future of the Depot is assured. The next steward of the building is the right one for its future. The Depot will become a shiny symbol of Detroit's progress and its success.
The Ford Motor Company's Blue Oval will adorn the building.
I thank Bill Ford and Ford Motor for their vision and commitment to this building.
I thank my own company's key players that have played important roles in not only this transaction but the stewardship of the building since we acquired it.
I thank Tom Buhl my friend that made the first connection.
I thank David Dubensky of Ford Motor Land, Michael Samhat of Crown Enterprises and Ken Carter of the Ambassador Bridge.
I thank Mayor Duggan and the City Council for creating and fostering a hopeful and positive environment in the City of Detroit.
I thank the Mayor again for running some the back channels during the negotiations.
I thank Keith Crain for hosting Homecoming Detroit at the Depot in fall of 2017.
There are many others too.
But most of all I thank my father for sharing his vision with me about this building and passing on his unwavering strength in standing by your belief even when the short-sighted conventional wisdom folks are hurling rocks.
I received an unsolicited note that hit my feelings right on:
"Matt, you and your father believed in the Depot and Detroit even when Detroit didn't believe in you."
With that will turn my attention more fully to another development we've been working on over the river.
Thank you for attending.
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