As a native Detroiter who grew up in the Motor City during the Motown sound, the Tigers ‘68 championship and when the auto plants were humming, Tuesday’s train station announcement is stunning and refreshing news for a city which sorely needs it.
While there have been many major events affecting this fabled city during my lifetime, there have been three which, in my opinion, really reflected Detroit’s changing fortunes and have stood out for me personally:
- The closing of Hudson’s and watching the implosion of the building in the late 1980s,
- Watching Tiger Stadium close in 1999 and its subsequent demolition years later, and
- The closing of the train station in SW Detroit and thinking about when it would be demolished too.
Two of the three aforementioned landmarks are now gone. Granted, new development is occurring on the former Hudson’s site and Tiger Stadium where Detroit PAL’s new Field of Dreams now sits on the legendary playing field along with a recently-announced mixed-used development being planned and built at The Corner.
However, the historical train station is now being repurposed and infused with new life by a legendary local company, Ford, with its roots in the Detroit-area for over a century in the part of the city which represents its family’s Irish roots, Corktown.
In other words, it’s not being torn down.
For so long, we have watched city disinvestment, a significant population shift and historical buildings being abandoned, reduced to rubble and/or another parking lot.
But not in this case. In fact, this momentum feels real–even for a cynical and sometimes jaded native.
And not only does it feel real, it’s gaining strength.
With the potential creation of up to 2500 Ford jobs by 2022 and another 2500 in the autonomous space, supplier development and entrepreneurship over the same period, this is a game-changer for Corktown and Detroit.
Let’s be clear here, Detroit still has significant issues (neighborhood development and education challenges, for example), but for this to happen is a major step because this is the state’s most well-known and largest city in Michigan–and, as Detroit goes, chances are the state follows. Matter of fact, I would venture to say no other city across the country has taken a punch like the Motor City.
So why is Tuesday’s announcement significant to metro Detroiters young and old alike?
Because for years, there have been so many “start and stops” in this town. If you’ve been here as long as me, we’ve heard and read all of the front-page stories about redevelopment efforts, only to see them fizzle like a light mist dissipating into thin air.
Not this time.
If you’re from Detroit, many residents have fond memories of the city, its manufacturing might and impact on this nation and beyond.
Yes, it was driven by the Big Three (now referred to the Detroit Three) and chances were your family’s and neighbor’s wages and lifestyles were tied directly into the success of the automotive industry. For example, my father was a banker, but we were a Ford family. My mother worked and retired from Ford, my brothers worked in its plants and, while in college during the late 70s and early 80s, I was a tour guide for the legendary Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn.
Therefore, we all had a stake in the city’s financial fortunes, and like Detroit itself, so did the train station.
And as a youngster, I used to go to the station to get ice cream and admire its beauty and grandeur and then head over to Tiger Stadium to see the Tigers.
To see its decline over the last thirty years was indeed, painful
But to see Ford’s recommitment to the city, the train station and its future is truly a wonderful sight to see.
And like the train station and city itself, Ford is connecting its future by aligning the past and present to a reimagined and hopefully, brighter future.
How cool is that?