Ford plans 2 new parking decks for Corktown

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Ford Motor Co. is considering building a parking deck on the empty Corktown lots near the Michigan Central Depot, which it purchased from the Moroun family this week.

Ford Motor Co.'s plans in Corktown as it works to restore the train depot include two parking decks, the project's team said Monday in its first bid to update residents on development plans and gather community input.

Hundreds of people attended a meeting held by the city of Detroit to discuss Ford's plans for a 1.2 million-square-foot campus in Corktown anchored by the Michigan Central Depot. Residents were asked for ideas during the development phase and they told Ford Land representatives about their worries about traffic, obstructed views from parking structures and losing Corktown's feel.

The Dearborn automaker is bringing 2,500 people from its autonomous technology and electrification departments to Corktown; another 2,500 employees will come from start-ups and other partner companies.

The two parking structures will be open to the community, said Rich Bardelli, program manager at Ford Land, the automaker's real estate arm. One structure will be located across from the former Tiger Stadium between Cochran and Harrison streets near Cherry Street. The other, Bardelli said, would be built behind the train station.

Rich Bardelli, program manager for Ford Land, gives a presentation to the crowd.

Brianna Fischer lives behind the depot and she worried the parking deck would block her view, she told the project team.

"I have the most beautiful view," Fischer said.

Bardelli said the company is taking that into consideration as it makes its plans. No decisions have been made on the size of the parking structures. He said Ford will keep most of the equipment on the property to avoid traffic congestion during construction.

Gerry Abela, 67, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, said he was worried that the extra traffic would damage Corktown's historic district, where parts of Michigan Avenue are paved with brick.

"Traffic is manageable," he said. "But I think if you get 5,000 workers down here, it's not going to work unless it is repaved."

The last train left Michigan Central Depot in 1988. It has stood vacant for 30 years, a symbol of Detroit's decline. Work on developing the depot is schedule to begin this fall. The Grand Hall will be open to public and feature retail space, while the 18-story tower will have office space. The two top floors will be residential, Bardelli said.

Ford began its return to Detroit in May, moving 220 employees from its autonomous technology and electrification business teams into a Corktown facility known as "The Factory" at Michigan Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard. It is about five blocks from Michigan Central Depot.

About 30 residents on Monday volunteered to serve on the city's neighborhood advisory council for the project. The council will lead discussion at biweekly meetings through Sept. 24 to develop a report for the City Council with the community's suggestions for the development.

Throngs of people stand in line waiting to tour the Michigan Central Depot in Corktown, Saturday afternoon, June 23, 2018.

The council will be comprised of two residents in the project's impact zone, three residents selected by the location's council member and two at-large council members, and four residents selected by the city's development department. The election for the advisory council is July 30 at the Detroit Police Athletic League.

Previously, local businesses and residents have expressed concerns about rising rents. Hip, independent restaurants have re-energized Detroit's oldest neighborhood in recent years, and many say that could disappear if Ford's development prices them out.

That's why Knena Causey, 54, said she is interested in serving on the advisory council. "I want to be sure we're kept in the loop about things to make sure we're not dispelled or displaced," she said.