Tour the old Detroit train station this weekend

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
Ford Motor Co. plans to give free tours inside Michigan Central Depot over the weekend.

Ford Motor Co. plans to give free tours inside Michigan Central Depot this weekend, ahead of its planned renovation of the towering Corktown building.

The public can walk around the depot's Grand Hall, where thousands of passengers a day entered to board trains when the building was still operating at its peak. The free tours will run from 1-6 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The building is located at 2001 15th St. in Detroit.

Ford and the Detroit Historical Society will have a curated exhibit inside the 18-story, 500,000-square-foot building recently purchased by the automaker. Artifacts will provide glimpses of the depot's history. Visitors will get a first look at a documentary on the train station.

The open house is the latest step for Ford's community outreach in Detroit. The automaker plans to poll the community about how they want the public spaces of the building to be used. Restaurants, retail spaces, coffee shops and markets are possibilities for the building's renovation, which public dollars are likely to help fund. 

Ford plans to refurbish the building by 2022. The company plans to use the building for offices for 5,000 people — 2,500 of whom will be Ford employees. 

Amtrak abandoned the building for a new facility on Woodward in the New Center area in 1994. The last train left Michigan Central Depot at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 5, 1988, heading toward Chicago.

Billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun took over the building in 1992, and the station has since sat vacant.

After years of being open to the elements, the interior is crumbling, though the bones of the building — steel beams encased by concrete — are still strong, according to Ford Land Co. CEO Dave Dubensky. 

The derelict condition of Michigan Central Depot is the key factor Ford could use to secure tax incentives aimed at reviving the historic property, say two commercial real estate attorneys and other analysts.

Ford's executive chairman, Bill Ford Jr., told The Detroit News the automaker expects its Corktown plans to qualify for tax incentives that would be roughly proportional, percentage-wise, to the package recently awarded to a four-project, $2.2 billion construction package planned by Quicken Loans Inc. Chairman Dan Gilbert's real estate arm.

Those tax incentives come in various forms. One way is by limiting the amount of property tax Ford pays in the future. It could come in the form of a construction grant from the state of Michigan.

And if Ford can prove its Corktown plans would bring new workers and residents into Michigan, those tax incentives could come from the state income taxes of future workers in the Corktown buildings. Those state income taxes usually go toward paying for such things as fixing roads and generally supporting state government departments.

Louis Aguilar of The Detroit News contributed. 

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau