Michigan Central Station
Michigan Central Station (also known as Michigan Central Depot or MCS), built in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad, was Detroit, Michigan's passenger rail depot from its opening in 1913 after the previous Michigan Central Station burned, until the cessation of Amtrak service on January 6, 1988. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest rail station in the world. The building, located in the Corktown district of Detroit near the recently demolished Tiger Stadium and the Ambassador Bridge about 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of downtown Detroit, still stands today, though it remains unoccupied. It is located behind Roosevelt Park, and the Roosevelt Warehouse is situated next to it. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Restoration projects and plans have gone as far as the negotiation process, but none has come to fruition. Restoration of Michigan Central Station is seen as an important project for the economic development of the City of Detroit. Detroit City Council voted on April 7, 2009, to demolish the building, passing a resolution that calls for expedited demolition. Detroit resident Stanley Christmas subsequently sued the city to stop the demolition effort, citing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

The unfinished building began operating as Detroit's main passenger depot in 1913 after the older Michigan Central Station burned on December 26, 1913. It had been planned as part of a large project that included the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel below the Detroit River for freight and passengers. The old station was to be replaced by the new Michigan Central to place the passenger service on the main line. The old station had been located on a spur line, which was inconvenient for the volume of passenger service that was being served. The growing trend toward increased automobile use was not a large concern in 1913, as is evident in the design of the building. Most passengers would arrive at and leave from Michigan Central Station by interurban service or streetcar and not as pedestrians due to the station's distance from downtown Detroit. The reason for the placement this far from downtown was a hope that the station would be an anchor for prosperity to follow. At the beginning of World War I, the peak of rail travel in the United States, more than two hundred trains left the station each day and lines would stretch from the boarding gates back to the main entrance. In the 1940s, more than four thousand passengers a day used to cram the cavernous waiting room and fill its 24 hardwood and mahogany-finished benches into the 1940s; more than three thousand people worked in its office tower. Among those who arrived at MCS were Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt, actor Charlie Chaplin and inventor Thomas Edison. Things were looking up as Henry Ford began to buy land near the station in the 1920s and plans were made, but the Great Depression and other circumstances squelched this and many other development efforts. Further compounding MCS's future problems was the fact that no large parking facility was included in the original design of the facility. So when the interurban service was discontinued less than two decades after MCS opened and streetcar service in 1938, MCS was effectively isolated from a large majority of the population. However, even with fewer means to get to and from the station, passenger volume did not decrease immediately. During World War II, the station saw heavy military use, but once the war ended, passenger volume began to decline. Service was cut back and passenger traffic became so low that the owners of the station attempted to sell the facility in 1956 for US$5 million, one-third of its original building cost in 1913. Another attempt to sell the building occurred in 1963, but again there were no buyers. In 1967, maintenance costs were seen as too high relative to the decreasing passenger volume. The restaurant, arcade shops, and main entrance were closed, along with much of the main waiting room. This left only two ticket windows to serve passengers and visitors, who used the same parking-lot entrance as railroad employees working in the building. Things began to look better for the building when Amtrak took over the nation's passenger rail service in 1971. The main waiting room and entrance were reopened in 1975 and a $1.25 million renovation project was begun in 1978. But only 6 years later, the building was sold for a transportation center project that never materialized. Then, on January 6, 1988, the last Amtrak train pulled away from the station after it was decided to close the facility. Amtrak service to Detroit was continued at the new Detroit station. Controlled Terminals Inc. acquired the station in 1996. Another transportation company, the Detroit International Bridge Co., owns the nearby Ambassador Bridge. Both companies are part of a group of transportation related companies owned by the same businessman, Manuel Moroun, Chairman and CEO of CenTra Inc. The station has appeared in several films. MCS was used for scenes in the movie Transformers (directed by Michael Bay) in October 2006. In January 2005, it was used as a location set for the movie The Island (also directed by Michael Bay`). In September 2002, extensive closeups and fly-by shots were featured in the movie Naqoyqatsi . The 2004 film Four Brothers opens with the main character driving his car along the front of Michigan Central Station towards Michigan Ave. The building has been used in some of Eminem's work, including the title sequence of the movie 8 Mile and his music video for the song " Beautiful," during the beginning of which the building features prominently. Most recently a scene from the ABC crime drama Detroit 1-8-7 was shot and set inside the station.

The building is of the Beaux-Arts Classical style of architecture, designed by the Warren & Wetmore and Reed and Stem firms who also designed New York City's Grand Central Terminal. The price tag for this 500,000-square-foot (46,000 m 2) building was $15 million when it was built. Detroit's Roosevelt Park creates a grand entryway for the station. The building is composed of two distinct parts: the train station itself and the 18-story tower. The roof height is 230 feet (70 m). Ideas as to what the tower was originally designed to include a hotel, offices for the rail company, or a combination of both. In reality, the tower was only used for office space by the Michigan Central Railroad and subsequent owners of the building. The interiors of at least the top floor were completed and served no function. The main waiting room on the main floor was modeled after an ancient Roman bathhouse with walls of marble. The building also housed a large hall adorned with Doric columns and contained the ticket office and arcade shops. Beyond the arcade was the concourse, which had brick walls and a large copper skylight. From here, passengers would walk down a ramp to the departing train platforms, 11 tracks in all. Below the tracks and building is a large area for baggage, mail, and other office building functions.

Future development
In 2008 the station owners said that their goal is to renovate the decaying building that has been closed since 1988. The estimated cost of renovations was $80 million, but the owners viewed finding the right use as a greater problem than financing. Proposals and concepts for redevelopment in the past have included these potential uses:
  • Trade Processing Center - One proposal suggested turning the station into a customs and international trade processing center due to its proximity to the Ambassador Bridge.
  • Convention Center and Casino - Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel J. "Matty" Moroun, proposed that Michigan Central Station be restored as the centerpiece of a new convention center, possibly combined with a casino. Such a project could cost $1.2 billion, including $300 million to restore the station. Dan Stamper, president of Detroit International Bridge, noted that the station should have been used as one of the city's casinos.
  • Detroit Police Headquarters - In 2004 Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced that the city was pursuing options to relocate its police department headquarters and possibly consolidate other law enforcement offices to MCS. However, in mid-2005, the city cancelled the plan and chose to renovate its existing police headquarters.
  • Michigan State Police Headquarters - In 2010, State Senator Cameron S. Brown and Mickey Bashfield, a government relations official for the building owner CenTra Inc., suggested that the station could become the Detroit headquarters of the Michigan State Police, include some United States Department of Homeland Security offices, and serve as a center for trade inspections.
Renovation estimates have ranged from $80 to $300 million. The Detroit Wayne County Port Authority has the ability to issue bonds and could take part in financing. The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $244 million in grants for high-speed rail upgrades between Chicago and Detroit. A consortium of investors including the Canadian Pacific Railway has proposed a new larger rail tunnel capable of handling large double stacked freight cars under the Detroit River which could open in 2015. With the new tunnel emerging near the Michigan Central Station, a redeveloped station could play a role as a trade inspection facility.

Possible demolition
On April 7, 2009, the Detroit City Council passed a resolution aimed at the demolition of the Depot. Seven days later, Detroit resident Stanley Christmas sued the city of Detroit to stop the demolition effort, citing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The future of the building is undetermined.

Building Activity

  • Michael Stemmler
    Michael Stemmler commented
    I love this place! I'm so glad they are fixing it up.
    about 6 years ago via Mobile
  • removed 2 media
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com