DETROIT (WXYZ) — In Southwest Detroit, a young man is making his mark on the transformation of the old Detroit train station. The transformation of the 797,000-square-foot iconic building is well underway.
Manuel Martinez didn't even think he would go to college, yet he is now one of the lead superintendents on the massive project. And as a child, it was a building he once played in.
“To come in everyday and understand that what I am doing is impacting the world — this is a building that was studied when I was in college. This is a building that was studied in Europe,” said Manuel Martinez, a lead superintendent of the Michigan Central Station project.
Never in his wildest dreams did Martinez think his future job would be leading the transformation of the iconic Detroit train station, all for Ford Motor Company, which is in a joint venture with Christman Brinker.
“My overall role is scheduling and making sure that 500 guys are continuously at work, not working over each other, working safe,” Martinez said.
Twenty-two years ago, Martinez’s mom and dad brought their family from the Dominican Republic to America for a better education and opportunity.
“Living in Southwest, I mainly spoke Spanish all throughout,” Martinez said.
At 10, Martinez was in a tough neighborhood with no thoughts of college and trouble lurking.
“We grew up in a bubble, I'll say. So, trying to break the barrier and getting out to see more of the world,” he said.
He credits a man he met at Western International High School, Tyrone Winfrey, with challenging him to dream bigger and believe he could accomplish more.
“(He) said, ‘get your senses together. Know you are worth a lot more than you think. You have a value,’” Martinez recalled.
Only 13% of college graduates are Hispanic or Latino but for Martinez, not only did he graduate from the University of Michigan, he got a master’s degree in engineering and architecture.
That lead to his work on a Hemingway Museum in Cuba. Soon after came an opportunity where for three-and-a-half years, his Christman company mentor and Senior Vice President Ronald Staley has opened doors for him.
“Our team saw that I am able to handle the big projects and I am detail-oriented,” Martinez said.
Martinez believes he is making his mark on Detroit and the world.
“It's a beautiful feeling to come in and understand that it’s more than just coming in and renovating or working every day — it's actually a part of history.
Whether you call it Michigan Central Station or the old Detroit train station, crews work well into the night on this project.
For Martinez, he not only works on this project, but he's also renovated a home in Southwest Detroit and a building in the city. He says it's important to bring change to a city that has given so much to him, his family and his community.