Saturday, June 15, 2024
DetroitEconomic DevelopmentHistoric preservationMobility

Tour Ford’s New Michigan Central Project With Matterport

In May, I returned to Michigan Central to complete Matterport scans for a virtual tour of the (almost completely) finished project for Ford. Seven hundred plus scans later, it’s ready for presentation. Having lived around the corner in Southwest Detroit for the past six years, I’ve enjoyed watching the train station go from completely abandoned to abandoned-but-illuminated to its current iteration as a finished structure that is both a stellar example of historic preservation and a beacon of possibility in economic development focusing on historic preservation.

The Matterport space is embedded here and then a gallery of photos are included below. You can tour the old space during the depths of the heavy lifting of restoration, here. There is also a separate tour for the Book Depository going from the basement to the rooftop, and I’m hoping to eventually do new scans for the completed Book Depository as well.

Without further ado, I bring you Michigan Central:

Gallery of Before & After Photos

You can experience these spaces in the old and new Matterport tours, which cover the restoration of Michigan Central over three separate time frames, beginning in the fall of 2020, continuing in the winter of 2021, and wrapping up in the spring of 2024.

The retail arcade in Michigan Central as it appeared in fall 2020.
The restored retail arcade in Michigan Central as it appeared in May 2024.
What Michigan Central looked like prior to restoration (fall 2020).
One of the restored doors and stone frame in the Grand Hall Ford’s Michigan Central Station.
The concourse in Ford’s Michigan Central as it appeared in late 2020.
The concourse at Ford’s Michigan Central. This was one of the roughest spaces in the original.
Michigan Central Station: This is the southeastern lobby, which bears some of the only remaining graffiti (opposite site in the below photo).
Ford’s Michigan Central: This is the opposite view of the southeastern lobby, featuring some preserved graffiti. Fat Wuz Not Here!
michigan central station ford
Ford’s Michigan Central: The café was located between the reading room and the restaurant, separated from the latter by the kitchen (currently in what is called the “vestibule” space, featured in the following image).
Ford’s Michigan Central: The “vestibule”– what was once a kitchen serving the adjoining café and restaurant spaces in the former Michigan Central Station, as it appeared last month in May 2024. Note the remaining stairwell in the back, which officially goes nowhere, but remains as an architectural relic, plus a restored floor and wall tiles.

The Restaurant

In addition to continuing the use of limestone present in much of the rest of the first floor of the station, the restaurant space featured vaulted sections between the columns– known as groin vaults or sometimes as double barrel vaults or cross vaults (the perpendicular intersection of two barrel vaults). The restaurant featured some sections of vibrant and contiguous graffiti art, which was removed in the restoration process, but graffiti still adorns the hallway connecting the concourse to the southeast lobby entrance (which once connected to a streetcar plaza).

michigan central station ford
Ford’s Michigan Central: The former main restaurant area as it appeared in 2020. Note the old quarry tile, which is perhaps not the most elegant flooring treatment, and the remannts of what were once counters and bar area (the lines in the floor).
Ford’s Michigan Central: The restored restaurant space, looking north-northeast toward Roosevelt Park (May 2024). There is still no flooring– hoping that comes soon and we imagine it will not be Grey Luxury Plank Vinyl.
Ford’s Michigan Central: The former restaurant as it appeared when scanned in the fall of 2020. Compare to some of the new additions, like the elevator access located on the rear wall between the two structural columns.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

Leave a Reply