'I think it shows glory.' The journey to Michigan Central's grand restoration reveal

Posted at 11:16 AM, Jun 03, 2024

(WXYZ) — The day has arrived! Michigan Central Station is just about ready to open to the public and today we’re getting our first look.

I got the chance to see it for myself and meet with some of the people instrumental in its restoration.

It’s hard to believe just how much Michigan Central Station has been transformed in the past six years.

As I take it all in, I’m trying to identify how I’d describe the feeling, and honestly, it’s pride — pride for what has been done — pride that Detroit could do it.

VIDEO: Inside Michigan Central: See the restored ticket lobby:

Inside Michigan Central Station: See the restored Ticket Lobby

Melissa Dittmer is the head of place at Michigan Central. She’s intimately aware of the restoration efforts it took to get to this point.

We chatted in the rich oak parlor that used to be the men’s waiting room. I asked her why it was so important for Ford to invest in this building in particular.

"With the multiple modes of transportation that came in this building, it really did represent the future of mobility for the city of Detroit back in 1913," said Dittmer.

And now it represents the future of mobility again. But getting here hasn’t been easy.

"Coming off over three decades of vacancy, the station was in a serious state of decay ... for example, this room received an extreme amount of water damage ... the flooring had all decayed, but you could see the remnants of the herringbone pattern," she said.

VIDEO: See the restored reading room and tea room:

Inside Michigan Central Station: See the restored Reading Room & Tea Room

I asked if a lot of modern technology was used to get it to where it is.

VIDEO: See inside Michigan Central before the restoration:

Michigan Central Station: See the inside before the restoration

“Yes. So we used a combination of sort of traditional, historic tradespeople, craftspeople who hand carved big limestone slabs into some of the exterior column capitals. We used the sort of innovative 3D scanning technologies and also 3D printing technologies to recreate some of the existing materials that we weren’t able to salvage," she said.

They even went so far as to identify the original quarry the limestone came from — and though it has been closed long ago, reopened it so restoration could be spot on.

VIDEO: Watch some of the construction on the interior of Michigan Central:

Michigan Central Station: See construction on the interior

Josh Sirefman is the CEO of Michigan Central. I met up with him in the sunny south concourse.

"This is the center point, the nerve center of how people interact with Michigan Central and really becomes the place when you say, ‘meet me at the station’ — this is right here," he said.

As we look around, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the herculean effort it took to get to today.

"This is the product of six years, 3,100 workers, everyone of whom had a story and in many cases a personal connection of incredible feats of engineering, of applying new techniques of 3D printing or other strategies to recreating space, all lovingly recreated," he said.

VIDEO: Father-daughter ironworkers among those who helped rehab Michigan Central Station:

Father-daughter ironworkers among those who rehabbed Michigan Central Station

He added, “it sounds cliche, but there’s a soul in this building that, you know, I watch people when they come in and see for the first time after they saw it at some point in their lives, maybe not, it’s so powerful. And I love the idea of forward-facing work happening in a building like this.”

The plan is to have this be ground central for a bright future, a future where Detroit is once again at the center of technology, innovation and mobility.

"I think it shows glory. I think it shows imagination. I think it shows a steadfast dedication to getting hard stuff done.”