Monday, July 20, 2015

Detroit's vacant Michigan Central Station

One of Detroit's most noticeable vacant, or if you prefer abandoned, landmark buildings, is Michigan Central Station. a former train depot in the Beaux Arts style in the Corktown neighborhood that closed down in 1988. It was built about two miles from downtown with the hope that the train station would expand central Detroit's growth, which was the same flawed strategy that doomed suburban Atlanta real estate mogul Charlie Croker in Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full. Then the tallest train station in the world when in opened in 1914, it was built with streetcars--what we now call interurban trains--in mind.

Automobiles didn't figure in to the architect's plans. Yeah, in Detroit--go figure.

However, behind the fence and menacing barbed wire is what appears to be a cab stand that may have been added later.

For years the old station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was unfenced and anyone--graffiti taggers and urban explorer--could walk right in, which is the same situation the former Fisher Body 21 plant is in today. The station is owned by well-known Detroit real estate developer Manuel "Matty" Maroun--whose firm is putting windows back in. However, Maroun hasn't stated his intentions in regards to the old station.

If you saw the Robocop reboot, yes, this is the windowless building in a helicopter close-up.

This is relief is above the entrance. Man oh man, they don't build them like that anymore--and that's a real shame.

In front of Michigan Central Station is Roosevelt Park. Other than these letters, a few benches, and the mowed grass, it's more of a park in the classic western states sense. It is just an open space. There are no swing sets or slides--and the only person playing in the park was a millenial flying his drone.

As for the station, it has been suggested that it could be turned into a high-speed rail hub. That will not happen. If a high-speed rail network is built--and it will take a lot of taxpayers dollars for that to come about--that hub will not be in a city with a plummeting population. Michigan Central Station did not expand Detroit's downtown into Corktown a century ago--and high-speed rail will not be Motown's savior.

Sometime soon I will post about Detroit's People Mover and its under-construction interurban line. If you are a liberal who likes trains--be forewarned--you won't like what I have to say.

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