Detroit’s Comeback Center Stage: Michigan Central Station Opens to National Audience

DETROIT — After nearly four decades since it closed and five years after Ford Motor Company announced it would renovate the space and revitalize the surrounding neighborhood, Michigan Central Station is set to reopen with a nationally broadcasted concert streamed live on Peacock tonight and then re-aired as a special on NBC this Sunday.

In a press release, Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford stated, “Michigan Central means a great deal to us all. In many ways, this building tells the story of our city,” said Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford. “This Station was our Ellis Island – a place where dreamers in search of new jobs and new opportunities first set foot in Detroit. But once the last train pulled out, it became a place where hope left. In 2018, I decided it was time to change that by reimagining this station as a place of possibility again. Over the past six years, Ford Motor Company and teams of forward thinkers, designers, community leaders, and more than 3,000 skilled tradespeople have worked to bring this landmark back to life.”

According to the release, Ford is among the building’s first tenants, and will move employees from its Ford Model e and Ford Integrated Services teams into newly renovated office space across three floors in The Station starting later this year. Ford will also have collaboration space in The Station for other Southeast Michigan-based employees to use. Some 1,000 Ford employees will work across the Michigan Central district by the end of the year, with a goal of 2,500 by 2028.

Alongside Ford, The Station will play a critical role in attracting other visionary companies to Detroit, and accommodating them within the 30-acre Michigan Central district. The innovation hub will provide 640,000 square feet of cultural, technology, community, and convening spaces designed to inspire creative collaboration between established companies, universities, growing startups, youth initiatives, students, and other stakeholders.

The Station joins Newlab at Michigan Central, which, in just over a year since its launch, has grown into a diverse community of more than 600 employees from nearly 100 companies and startups, over half of whom have at least one founder from an underrepresented background. With entrepreneurs and inventors focused on fields like advanced aerial mobility, energy equity, and multimodal logistics, Newlab at Michigan Central provides an unparalleled testing environment that includes infrastructure like the first electrified public road and Bagley Mobility Hub, along with policy tools like the Transportation Innovation Zone, which allows for the safe fast-tracking of testing technology pilots.

“I wanted Michigan Central to be beautifully restored but also reimagined for so much more,” Bill Ford said. “This will be a place for the community to enjoy and a destination for visitors from all over. We will have restaurants, music, art, and great retail. And the innovation that will happen here, with startups and companies big and small, will help ensure Detroit preserves its title as the Motor City for generations to come.”

The extensive renovations were highlighted. Originally designed by architects Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem, the same team behind New York’s famed Grand Central, Michigan Central Station first opened its doors in 1913 as one of the country’s most spectacular transportation terminals. It saw 4,000 daily passengers at its peak, but, following decades of declining rail travel, was shuttered in 1988 and sat vacant for three decades, experiencing severe neglect, weathering, decay and vandalism.

“Our construction teams have accomplished what many thought was impossible,” said Ron Staley, Executive Director of Historic Preservation for Christman-Brinker, the Detroit-based joint venture that led the restoration work. “The result is amazing, like no other project any of us have worked on in our careers, and I look forward to everyone experiencing the space at this week’s opening and for generations to come.”

Construction teams looked to old and new technologies to ensure accuracy to historical standards and to preserve, re-create, and repurpose different aspects of the building from all chapters of its life. For example, to source more than 600 tons of limestone, Ford and its partners located the same quarry in Indiana that provided the original stone for The Station’s exterior more than 100 years ago. The quarry, like The Station, had been closed for three decades, and needed to be reopened for the project. A Michigan tradesman spent 428 hours hand-carving a replica of a single column capital from one of these limestone blocks for the building’s north entrance.

Additional renovation facts:

  • 8 million bricks make up The Station, which if laid end to end would stretch about 1,000 miles.
  • 1,300 square feet of terra cotta cornice was restored.
  • 102,000 square feet of windows were replaced or restored.
  • 4,200 new light fixtures were installed, including re-creations of three massive chandeliers in the Waiting Room and Grand Hall.
  • Restoring the building’s iconic Waiting Room and Grand Hall required the equivalent of 8.7 miles of grout used on the 29,000 Guastavino ceiling tiles alone. All but 1,300 of these tiles are original to The Station.
  • 3.5 million gallons of water were pumped from its basement, and 3,990 cubic yards of debris were hauled out of the building.

A Concert for the Ages

To celebrate this historic reopening, the site will host a star-studded concert airing LIVE on the Peacock streaming service and then as a special on NBC Sunday night.

“Detroit is known around the world for its musical talent, and having so many legendary artists kick off the celebration for the reopening of the iconic Michigan Central Station shows how meaningful this moment is for our city,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “This historic landmark symbolizes Detroit’s resilience, innovation, and now, its bright future. This is about more than preserving a piece of our past. It also is about paving the way for a new era of growth and opportunity for all Detroiters.” 

The special concert is executive produced by Detroit music icon Eminem and his longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg.   

The sold-out, ticketed 90-minute outdoor concert will bring to life the spirit and soul of Detroit through an incredible lineup of musical performances, short films, appearances by local leaders, and creators telling stories of innovation and culture from around the city and the region. The star-studded program features iconic musicians and cultural legends, including Michigan natives Diana Ross, Big Sean, Illa J, Jack White, Kierra Sheard, Theo Parrish, Slum Village, the Clark Sisters, Sky Jetta and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. They will be joined by presenters including Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders and stars Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown. These Detroit entertainment stars will be joined by other performers, including Common, Fantasia, Melissa Etheridge and Jelly Roll, along with presenters Mike Epps and Sophia Bush.   

Photo courtesy of Michigan Central

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