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Michigan Central and the Impact on Corktown

Having Reopened the One Time Train Station on June 6 – How is it Fairing?


Michigan Central Station opened in 1913 and operated for 75 years until the last train departed the station on January 5, 1988. During its 36 years of vacancy, many of its beautiful features were destroyed by vandalism and the winds of time, until in June 2018, when Ford Motor Company announced their purchase of the building, and their plans to transform the station and nearby buildings into a mixed-use campus.

Over the next six years, the building underwent a full restoration to become a first-of-its-kind ecosystem combining Detroit’s rich history with a vision to shape the future of transportation worldwide.

The building re-opened on June 6, 2024, with a celebration featuring Detroit musical legends.

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And it was quite a celebration indeed. People from all walks of life came out in droves and the energy was palpable.

The building now sits within a 30-acre campus that includes Newlab Detroit which houses tech startups focused on energy, mobility, and innovative materials.

With this colossal renovation and the sheer size of the campus itself, Detroitisit wondered about its impact on nearby businesses, and how it’s assimilating into the community. So we spoke to those working in Newlab, and the campus’s neighbors to get some insights and different perspectives.

Corktown is known for being eclectic and energetic, and Newlab is focused on following that lead in terms of the innovation happening inside the building, and the interactions we have outside within the surrounding community, said Riley Hall, Director of Membership for Newlab.

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“We have started a run group that meets at Newlab, and many of us also convene and walk to different restaurants and places at lunch,” he said.

Honey Bee Market is experiencing a significant lift in business and enjoying the growth the new campus is bringing to Corktown.

“It’s so refreshing to see the foot traffic on Bagley and Michigan Avenue and Vernor,” said Tammy Alfaro-Koehler, the market’s owner. “There are people out discovering the city and bringing energy and new life to Corktown.”

Ryan Sparks, Manager of Supergeil weighs in saying, “The park is gorgeous and offers a great space for people to gather now – and people are doing so!”



“I’m learning something new about the area every day and eating at new places,” said Allison Bowman, Head of Business Development for Tubular Network. “Once a month a group of us from Newlab walks to Honey Bee to get food for lunch and we eat on the roof if it’s nice. I think the campus serves as a place to unite people.”

Mercury Bar now has a line out the door for lunch and dinner, and owner Dave Steinke is thinking about expanding their hours and food menu.

“The train station was a symbol of decline in Detroit and now it’s a symbol of rebirth,” he said. “It’s a game-changer.”

All business owners agree that the biggest – and currently only – downside their new neighbors are causing is the parking issue, citing this as a problem the night of the reopening event. Conversely, all say it’s a problem they are willing to live with.

Parking is the biggest hurdle but I’ll take it, Ford chose to invest back in Detroit and it’s brought the soul back to the city,” said Ben Senseney, Brand Operation Officer at Two James Spirits.

“The night of the reopening was the best Thursday night we’ve ever had by far,” Sparks said. “We saw a lot of new faces and some familiar faces too.”

Sparks says the ongoing tours and traffic since the reopening continue to bring a huge influx of new business.

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“June 6 was amazing for us,” said Senseney. “We were able to serve cocktails to go and do samplings in front of the distillery and we were packed.”

“Although parking was an issue, the reopening of Michigan Central was a breath of fresh air for us and all businesses in Corktown,” said Steinke.

Regarding Michigan Central’s efforts to assimilate, Steinke speaks out saying, “A Ford employee sits on the board of the Corktown Business Association and fills us in on happenings, and the businesses share issues openly, so there has been a lot of good communication around all areas of the renovation and the reopening. It’s been pretty seamless so far.”

“Michigan Central did a lot of outreach before the reopening event to offer tickets and concessions to residents and entities in the area,” said Gary Thornton, who works out of Newlab and is CEO of Beacon Manufacturing (Formerly Detroit Bikes).

In terms of how the campus will continue to integrate, and impact the businesses in Corktown going forward, all parties feel that the future looks very bright.

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“Corktown has worked to revitalize itself for years and our goal is to continue to expand on this work,” says Riley.

Bowman weighs in saying, “This positive national attention is long overdue. It’s not only the restoration of the building but the campus represents Detroit’s global leadership in the mobility space and the campus makes that tangible.”

“We are looking at starting a catering business now,” said Sparks. “We also have a lot of space for large business meetings and gatherings, and that is already getting used. I think the future will hold a lot more business for us.”

Thorton shares an interesting take, saying, “Detroit has been known as the motor city for a long time, but when you look at the definition of the motor, it’s an electric engine, not combustible. So what’s happening here is Michigan Central is electrifying the Motor City and making it appropriate to its name.”

“In closing, Alfaro-Koehler says, “When I walk out the front door of the store, where I used to see deterioration every day now stands a beautiful building and campus. The city is not only coming back – it’s here.”


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