DETROIT (WWJ) – Are we getting close to seeing a tenant in Detroit’s long-abandoned Michigan Central Station? WWJ’s Sandra McNeill went inside the shuttered structure to investigate.
The owner of the deserted train station at 2405 West Vernor Highway in Corktown says he’s gotten “hundreds” of offers to redevelop the dilapidated structure that has become a worldwide symbol of Detroit’s decline. Some of the offers are a little crazy and some are intriguing, but the problem is finding something that Matthew Moroun calls economically viable.
“Regardless of the type of development, it’s a $100-plus million deal to completely redevelop the depot,” Moroun said.
The 18-story building was built in 1913 but fell into disrepair after rail service ended in 1988.
“We acquired the depot, I think, in 1995. Amtrak left the station sometime in the mid-80s. And in those intervening years the vast majority of the pilferage and the thievery, I guess, took place,” said Moroun. “And then we had for few years, and I’m being straight with you, we had trouble securing the building. We now have it secured so you can’t get in or out. There’s about 100 different ways in and out of the building, so it took a while. We’ve bricked up many entrances, we’ve got iron bars over other entrances. We’ve installed a security system with cameras connected to a guard services that comes as soon as our alarms get tripped. So, it’s been a daunting task.”
Inside the massive building, which got a face-lift two years ago when new windows were installed, signs of decay are visible everywhere. No one has been allowed inside for years, officially, except for construction and survey crews. Crumbling walls are marked with graffiti, anything of value has been stripped away and portions of the roof are missing, inviting all of Mother Nature’s elements — and creatures — to come inside.
“We’ve started,” said Moroun. “You know, the windows alone were $4 million, the elevator we put in was a couple million dollars, the cleanup that we’ve done so far has been a few million dollars. So, slowly but surely we’re going to be filling in the foundation of that [$100 million] number. But we need an economically viable engine, or maybe two, to do a complete renovation.”
And all options are open, Moroun said, whether its business, retail or residential to occupy the building — Mayor Mike Duggan recently said he could see high-end lofts in the building’s top floors. One thing is for certain: The train station might not be the prettiest, the cleanest or the newest building on the block, but it’s not going anywhere.
“We’d never tear it down,” Moroun, the son of trucking magnate and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, said staunchly. “This structure needs to be rejuvenated. We’ve started and we’re going to see it all the way through.”
And that might come sooner than we think.
“For the right project, I think we could get going pretty fast,” Moroun eluded. “The next 18 months should tell us a lot.”