Detroit’s central train station, Hudson’s, other projects almost done

Some of Detroit’s biggest development projects have been in the works so long that it’s hard to believe that they’ll finally get done.

But absent some shocking setback, six of Detroit’s most significant projects will open in quick succession in a few years’ time. These projects, including Ford’s remake of the Michigan Central Station and Dan Gilbert’s Hudson’s site project, will redefine the face that Detroit shows the world.

It’s just coincidence that all of these are planned to open in back-to-back fashion. But it also illustrates that decades of efforts to revitalize the city have begun to pay off, at least in terms of producing the biggest development projects.

The experience of adding so many iconic new landmarks to the city in short order is likely to open a new chapter in Detroit’s story.

For one thing, many of these projects, including Ford’s Michigan Central Station and Gilbert’s Hudson’s site, will feature major retail and community gathering places. It’s likely Detroiters will visit these attractions in large numbers, creating common experiences and shared memories.

And the jobs and residential units created by these projects will boost the city’s economy in important ways.

As Rich Bardelli, construction manager for Ford’s remake of the train station, told me the other day, “As a Detroiter, growing up here, seeing the rebirth of our city, outstanding.”

Will they all really happen? There’s always a chance that a sharp recession or other calamity could delay one or more of the projects. Even ordinary construction snags could set back the timing on some of them. But it’s hard to see how any could be canceled outright at this point.

A blend of modernist design and attractive community spaces, these projects represent a huge investment in the city’s future. They will draw thousands of users and visitors daily and create a new common experience for those living in or visiting the Motor City.

And while they may raise anew issues that already dog Detroit, like the use of tax incentives for development, their back-to-back-to-back ribbon cuttings in 2023 and 2024 will focus attention on Detroit in new and useful ways.

The Big 6

Here’s where these six big projects stand:

1. The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park: This park will remake the 22-acre site on the west riverfront that now is just a big grassy open field. Currently in final design, the park is slated to open in the fall of 2022, although it wouldn’t surprise me if that slips into 2023.

2. Michigan Central Station: Ford’s is remake of the station as its center of mobility research should finish construction by the end of 2022. Once tenant spaces are finished, the depot will open for use by mid-2023.

3. The University of Michigan’s Center for Detroit Innovation: This recently announced project should be ready to welcome grad students on the former “fail jail” site downtown by 2023.

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