'A beacon for the future.' Bill Ford speaks out on his hopes for the reborn Michigan Central Station

Posted at 9:00 AM, Jun 05, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — We are on the eve of the grand opening of Michigan Central Station, and for the first time in over 30 years, the public will be able to walk through its spacious halls once again.

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There's one person who might be more excited than everyone else - Bill Ford Jr. - the driving force behind the renovation.

See more from inside Michigan Central Station below

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

I got a chance to sit down one one-on-one with the executive chair of Ford Motor Company to pick his brain about why he brought this dream to life.

He explained exactly why he wanted Michigan Central to be open to the public.

“You know the one thing, from day one, I didn’t want this to be was a corporate takeover of this neighborhood or this building. It’s very collaborative, we want -even next door, we have 97 startups, and a lot of them aren’t working with Ford. They’re working with Stellantis or GM, other companies," Ford says. "Some aren’t working with OEMs at all. That’s exactly what I wanted. Because if this is going to work for Detroit and for our industry, it’s got to be an open platform.”

Watch our full interview with Bill Ford Jr. below

Bill Ford Jr. talks about the importance of restoring Michigan Central Station

I asked if they were inspired by what other cities are doing.

“I mean, look, yes. Always, because I travel all over the world and I could see what was possible," Ford says. "And I knew what Detroit once was. And to me, the seminal moment was - I was on the board of a Silicon Valley company and I could see all the energy and creativity around new innovation and new startups and all the financial ecosystem around that happening out there. And I knew that if we didn’t change things here, that the future of transportation was not going to be invented in Detroit, it was going to be invented somewhere else.”

And if Ford could be anywhere, why do you continue to invest in Detroit?

“This is our hometown. I love the city. And you know, our family has been committed to the city for many, many years, whether it’s the Henry Ford Health System, Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn," Ford says. "You know I redid the Rouge Plant and made it, took it from the world's biggest brownfield site to the greenest assembly plant. The Detroit Institute of Arts, my family was instrumental in building that into what it is today. Ford Field, obviously, is something that I was personally very involved with. So you know, we’ve had a history of believing in our city and believing in our region. And this, I think, is going to be another proof point that this is our place. This is our city.”

"For a long time, people have seen Michigan Central as a symbol of the city of Detroit. What symbol do you hope that it conveys going forward?" I asked.

“For many years, it was often the photo that was used when the story was written about the decay of our city. And it used to drive me insane when I would pick up a newspaper and it would be a story about the dereliction of our great city and the visual was this train station. And I said to myself if I could ever figure out a way and/or a reason to not only restore it but, actually, make it something, not just a trip down memory lane but that plus a beacon for the future, that’s what I want to do,” Ford says.

This week, people will begin to walk through the halls of Michigan Central and lay eyes are the incredible work of over 3,100 skilled tradesmen and women. I’m still so impressed and I can’t wait for everyone to see it for themselves.