Aug 11, 2023 - Development

Pondering Michigan Central's public-facing first floor

Michigan Central. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

When Ford's iconic Michigan Central renovation opens in the first half of next year in Corktown, the ground floor of the historic former train station will be publicly accessible.

  • Our question — what will be chosen to fill the space that so many have memories of?

What's happening: Michigan Central is planning food, beverage and retail options "that will be as much of a destination as the depot itself," but officials haven't announced specific tenants yet, per a recent statement. They've been meeting with "all sorts of Detroit restaurateurs and small-business owners."

  • Announcements will likely start early next year.

In the meantime, we spoke with some Corktown observers about what they expect to unfold:

Ryan Cooley, O'Connor Real Estate: As long as Michigan Central continues on the track it's been on — major neighborhood outreach and connections with people doing "cool things" locally — it'll likely have a unique destination planned. "Basically, don't do what the RenCen does, ultimately."

  • Michigan Central will need to fit its tenants into a restored historic space that isn't catered to modern retail, Cooley says.

Lex Zavala, Detroit Hispanic Development Corp.: He notes that Michigan Central connects Corktown and Southwest Detroit, both areas driven by small, family-owned and/or minority-owned businesses, and wants the building to stay "with that tradition."

Sheila Cockrel, consultant and former City Council member: The train station "is a breathing monument to crossroads," with a diverse range of people coming and going.

  • She wants the space to feel welcoming to both new tech folks and longtime residents — plus be full of open gathering space and testimony to the building's role in transit history.
  • Food and "interplay" with Corktown's longtime restaurant and bar scene will also be crucial.

What do you want to open on the station's main floor? Email [email protected] and we may feature your thoughts in a future newsletter.


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