Detroit — Ford Motor Co. has begun the first of three phases of renovation work on the Michigan Central Depot as part of its $740 million Corktown campus.

The automaker opened the doors to the historic building on Tuesday to provide an update of work underway. A crew was already on site, part of 50 workers who will winterize the building during the next six to eight months.

"Today is a pretty big day for us as we start our construction process for the building," said Rich Bardelli of the automaker's real estate arm, Ford Land Co. "Today, we start getting the building enclosed, getting us going."

The 600,000-square-foot building will have a temporary roof — which Bardelli said will likely be blue or white — as well as temporary enclosures and plumbing that will move water away from the building. 

"It's really to get the building dried out," he said. 

The tour Tuesday comes one week after the Michigan Strategic Fund board approved a renaissance zone for the $740 million, 1.2 million-square-foot campus where Ford will work on its autonomous and electric vehicle businesses as well as design urban mobility services.

The automaker announced in June it had purchased the iconic train station will eventually house 5,000 workers, including 2,500 from its mobility team.   

There's been excessive water damage over the years as the 105-year-old building has been exposed to the elements for decades. Years of a rain and freeze-thaw effect has caused cracks and holes in the masonry.

A combination of plywood and tarpaulin will cover open windows and exterior holes on the roof, officials said. A series of pumps will be installed in the basement to prevent flooding. Fans will circulate the air, and natural ventilation will help with evaporation. 

Bardelli said the second phase is expected in about a year and will involve replacing mechanical and electrical systems and restore exterior masonry. It will take three summers to repair the masonry, officials said.

The final phase will be finishing and restoring the interior. The automaker says it plans to return the grand hall of the station to its original grandeur and attract local shops and restaurants to what will become a public space.

Among the features of the grand hall is a large amount of plasterwork. Bardelli said a lot of the plasterwork is in good shape, while a lot of it still will need to be replicated. 

Ron Staley, executive director of Detroit-based Christman-Brinker, construction manager for the project, said the building also has 21,000-square-feet of Guastavino tile. In another year and a half, crews may have to remove and clean every piece before replacing. 

"It's one of the expertise that at least in part would come from out of state because there's so little of it here in Michigan, nobody really has that skill set," he said. 

Ford says it plans to use 3D printing to create molds and mockups to replicate historic elements that have deteriorated or are missing. 

Large support columns sit in the grand hall supporting vaulted areas from further collapse or damage. There are also support columns in place in the basement, Bardelli said. 

Richard Hess, principal of Washington, D.C.-based Quinn Evans Architects, said he has a crew analyzing the various types of tile and plaster throughout the building. There are 13 layers of support structure, he said. Inspection work will continue for the next six months. 

Quinn Evans Architects has about 20 architects working on the project as well as mechanical and structural engineers. 

"I think right now the challenge is getting the water out of the building and getting the stabilization up," he said.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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