The expected redevelopment of the Michigan Central Station isn’t yet announced, but the feeding frenzy is well under way.
Ford Motor Co. is likely besieged with queries from builders, architects, engineers and others in its pursuit of work on what could be an expansive campus in the Corktown neighborhood west of downtown Detroit.
Last week, Crain’s first reported that an entity that has been linked to Ford acquired the vacant Michigan Central Station, for years emblematic of Detroit’s dramatic half-century-long decline, as well as a former Detroit Public Schools book depository where a Detroit News reporter in 2009 told the story of a man found frozen in water, his legs grotesquely protruding.
“The rumor has been going around for a long time about Ford. Anybody who has a relationship with Ford, I’m assuming they have been knocking on doors saying, ‘Hey, what about me?'” said Todd Sachse, CEO of Detroit-based Sachse Construction Inc.
And there’s a lot of work to be had.
Sources have told Crain’s in the months since news first emerged about the train station plans that they have been jockeying for a piece of the construction work, which would easily be in the hundreds of millions of dollars spread out across multiple properties, with the centerpiece being the 505,000-square-foot depot that has sat unused since 1988.
“We would love to, and yes, we will be reaching out to see if we can be part of the game with our resources and experience in doing historic rehabs,” Sachse said.
His company has not done building work for the automaker, although he said Sachse Construction has done project pricing for Ford. Sachse also said multiple companies have asked his company to determine a mixed-use redevelopment budget for the train station in the past.
“To renovate that whole building, well over $100 million; it could be well over $200 million. It really depends on what you do with the first floor concourse,” he said, declining to identify which companies asked his to price out their projects.
“The second floor up, there is not very much square footage; the floor plates are pretty small and they are actually in remarkably good shape. The perception that this building is a disaster really is not true. Other than that concourse, where there is a lot of historic decay, but the upper floors are really quite sound.”
A Ford redevelopment of the train station, which opened in 1914, would likely trigger aftershocks in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, with upward pressure put on real estate values and increased demand for restaurants and new housing.
The area has already been a hotbed of real estate activity, with hundreds of residential units planned by Detroit businessman Anthony Soave and developer Eric Larson. Construction is underway on Soave’s Elton Park project and Larson’s development on the site of the former Tiger Stadium.
“I think they realized Detroit is the place they are going to attract the most talent,” said Jim Ketai, CEO and co-founder of Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock LLC real estate development, management and leasing company that owns more than 90 properties in and around downtown. “I think it’s great.”