Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it is on track for the renovation of the Michigan Central Depot, entering the second of three phases of restoration. The Detroit News


Detroit — Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it is on track on the renovation of the Michigan Central Depot, entering the second of three phases to restore the historic building for part of its $740 million Corktown campus.

The focus of the second phase is restoring eight acres of masonry, an intensive task that will continue until 2021. Crews will also assess and repair the steel structure.

“When we initially looked at the building, everything was encased in concrete, so a lot of that probing and testing is going on to really understand where the building is falling structurally better or worse,” said Rich Bardelli of the automaker's real estate arm, Ford Land Co. “For the most part, it’s where we thought it was going to be. In some areas, a little bit worse. In some areas, a lot better.”

The automaker showed off its progress with a tour Thursday, nearly a year since it announced it had purchased the iconic train station that will eventually house 5,000 workers, including 2,500 from its mobility team.  

As it begins its second phase, Ford is also working on the master plan for the building, set to be released in a month. Under consideration are a hotel or conference center for the 12th and 13th floors. The focus will be more hospitality, opposed to residential, Bardelli said. 

"They will be more public space," he said of the two floors. "It could be a conference center, it could be a hotel. That's what our master plan is going to tell us."

The Detroit office of architecture, design and planning firm Gensler is working with New York-based Practice for Architecture and Urbanism on the master plan.

Since the start of the first phase in December, Ford has taken numerous steps to minimize water from entering and remaining in the 640,000-square-foot structure. White tarps cover the grand lobby’s large windows and temporary roofing is in place. Black tubing runs along the walls and from floor to floor directing water out and away from the building. 

Ford faces challenges as the 105-year-old building has been open to the elements for decades and suffered excessive water damage.

Instead of placing a temporary roof at the top of the tower, the company chose to place it on the 13th floor. A similar method was used on the concourse floor to keep water from entering the basement.

“Instead of covering the actual roof with a temporary roof we put that temporary roof on the 13th floor, and we built a gutter system up there to keep the water up from the rest of the floors,” Bardelli said. “We have so much work to do, we would be forever taking it off and on.”

In the basement, Ford had to pump out 227,000 gallons of water over a period of months. At some points, the water level had risen to between six to eight feet high. 

Workers have made some discoveries in the building since restoration work began. Tucked inside some of the walls were about a dozen whiskey, beer and Coca Cola bottles, likely consumed by builders. Some bottles were dated 1913, a year before the station opened to the public.

The artifacts will likely be put on display, said Ron Staley, executive director of Detroit-based Christman-Brinker, construction manager for the project,

In June, scaffolding will be put up around the building's office tower and in the fall, around the grand lobby. Crews will remove bricks to repair the steel framework behind it.

Damaged terracotta, limestone and brick will be cleaned, repointed and replaced. It’s a process that will take two to three years.

Some of the material will have to be replicated. For example, terra cotta that can't be salvaged will be replaced with fiberglass.

"Most people won't be able to tell the difference," Staley said.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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