Ford to demolish contaminated 'Alchemy' building in Corktown

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Ford plans to tear down a former brass factory known as "The Alchemy" as a part of its Corktown campus, Ford Land chairman and CEO David Dubensky said Wednesday.

At the Southwest Detroit Business Association's annual community investors breakfast, Dubensky confirmed that Ford purchased the vacant 87,000-square-foot building at 2051 Rosa Parks Blvd. That's behind the building known as The Factory, where 220 Ford employees began working last month.

Contamination to the property — which formerly housed Lincoln Brass Works and Detrex Corp.'s solvents division — will require Ford to demolish the building to clean up the site, Dubensky said. In October 2016, the facility, at that time being used as a preschool, was closed because of potentially cancerous fumes.

Dubensky said a new mixed-use building "likely" will be built in its place.

A lack of specifics for the 1.2 million-square-foot autonomous and electric-car campus in Corktown anchored by Michigan Central Depot emphasizes Ford's hope to use community input to refine its designs, Dubensky said. Lead designer Craig Dykers from Snøhetta, an architecture firm known for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum pavilion, already has begun meeting with designers and exploring Corktown and surrounding neighbors to get a feel for the area.

"If we're successful here, we're going to create a campus that is a wonderful place to work for our engineers and designers," Dubensky said. "But it's also a great place for the community to live. If we disrupt that last piece of it, we got it wrong."

A sketch for the site shows a three- or four-story building with retail space for cafes and shops on the ground floor and outdoor activity spaces

"If we build a new building," Dubensky said, "we want to integrate the office entries with more lively and community-focused activities on the grounds near streets. You (sh)ouldn't expect a large rectangle with guards at the door."

In total, Ford expects there to be 900,000 square feet in commercial and 300,000 square feet in residential space. In addition to The Alchemy, The Factory, and the old depot, properties include the former Detroit Public Schools book depository that will provide work, residential, and possibly retail space, Dubensky said. The depot will also have some residential space, though there are no specifics on where there those will be.

"Wouldn't that be cool? A couple of penthouse condos or lofts up there?" he said.

Renovation of Michigan Central Depot is expected to begin in the early fall and finish in 2022.

"The party's going to be over," he said, "and Monday, we have to begin building and doing what we said."