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How Buro Happold helped transform Detroit’s iconic Michigan Central Station
How Buro Happold helped transform Detroit’s iconic Michigan Central Station

As part of its commitment to Detroit, Buro Happold partnered with architect Quinn Evans to redesign Ford Motor Company’s Michigan Central Station. The heart of Michigan Central’s innovation center connects Detroit’s past with its promising future through historic restoration, innovation and community engagement.

Led by a world-class team including architect Quinn Evans, Buro Happold supported Ford Motor Company’s vision to create a dynamic centerpiece for the future of 21st century mobility and work environments. The redevelopment of the 60,000 m2 Michigan Central Station now forms the centerpiece of the 30-acre Michigan Central District and provides over 110,000 m2 of office, community and retail space. This transformation is generating local and global interest and encouraging economic development, job creation and investment in cutting-edge technologies.

Michigan Central Station was the main intercity passenger rail station in Detroit. It was built for the Michigan Central Railroad, but had to be closed early due to a fire in the city’s existing station on December 26, 1913, and remained in service until 1988. Featuring a train station and a 13-story office tower with a roof height of 230 feet, it was the tallest rail station in the world when it was completed. The project also reflects Buro Happold’s commitment to Detroit, one of the city’s recent success stories.

Image of the interior of the remodeled Michigan Central Station showing restoration of the historic ground floor with traditional beams and features.
Interior view of the remodeled Michigan Central Station showing restoration of the historic ground floor with traditional beams and elements. Photo: Jason Keen.

The Buro Happold team, led by Director Adam Whitt, played a critical role in the transformation of Michigan Central Station. Buro Happold provided comprehensive engineering services including MEP design, daylighting analysis, energy efficiency modeling, and front-end studies using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The result was an energy efficient building that breathed new life into this historic landmark.

The Michigan Central Innovation Ecosystem is the first mobility testing platform of its kind and provides a world-leading innovation center for developing new transportation and access solutions that are “equitable and environmentally sustainable to help people move and live better lives,” Ford Motor Co. said.

Under the leadership of the project manager, which included mobility expert Francesco Cerroni, Buro Happold provided mobility planning, multimodal road design, traffic modelling and permitting, as well as e-mobility planning, pedestrian modelling, equity planning and the development of business cases.

Landscape view of the Michigan Central Station district at night, which will include a state-of-the-art mobility hub, retail stores, new public parks, several outdoor plazas, and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space in several restored historic buildings.
Landscape view at night of the Michigan Central Station district, which will include a state-of-the-art mobility hub, retail, new public parks, multiple outdoor plazas, and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space in several restored historic buildings. Image: Jason Keen.

The project design team developed solutions to transform the neighborhood and existing buildings. Located between the historic Corktown and Southwest Detroit neighborhoods, Michigan Central is anchored by a vibrant and inclusive 30-acre campus.

The reopening of Michigan Central Station marks a new chapter for Detroit. When the first tenants move into the revitalized space in the coming months, the station will become an innovation hub and vibrant destination for all, with numerous shops, restaurants and dining options. The successful restoration of this famous train station by the same architect who designed Grand Central creates more than just offices and community spaces: it sets the stage for Detroit’s urban renaissance.

Senior Partner and Chairman of the Global Board, Craig Schwitter

Full view of Michigan Central Station reconstruction illuminated at night.
Full image of the Michigan Central Station reconstruction illuminated at night. Image: Jason Keen.

In addition to the transformation of Michigan Central Station, Buro Happold has been instrumental in other notable projects, including the repurposing and repositioning of the century-old Book Tower and the landmark multi-use Hudson’s Site Development.

“We are excited to be part of Detroit’s impressive success, attracting a new wave of attention, investment and thousands of new residents and businesses. We value our long-term commitment to Detroit and other Midwestern cities, bringing our collaborative, multidisciplinary vision to elevate places, regional economies and design outcomes.

Partner, Yasmin Rehmanjee

Buro Happold’s diverse contributions to Detroit’s most important developments testify to its diverse expertise.

By Isla