Rail station will rule as cop shop

Jim Turner



Every Detroiter and nearly every visitor to southwest Detroit is fully aware that the Michigan Central Depot languished on its foundation at Michigan and Bagley. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick wants to restore the building for use as the City of Detroit police headquarters. Hurray, it is about to happen.

Detroit News columnist Pete Waldmeir, claims it is rotted past the point of salvation. Preservationists are aware of the tremendous decay and pillaging the building has suffered since it was shuttered in the early 1980s. Other attempts to resuscitate the building failed, but none had quite as vital a use as a police station, protecting the life and safety of all that come to Detroit.

Once more the rebirth of Michigan Central Depot could serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of surrounding neighborhoods, celebrating a diverse community of cultures and nationalities. Mr. Waldmeir seems concerned the Police Department will only house 60 percent of the structure.

Couldn't other services occupy the remainder? Is it at all possible that the redevelopment of Michigan Central Depot could drive the economic growth of a new service industry in southeast Michigan - Homeland Security, naturalization and immigration, transportation - just to name a few. Near the old police headquarters at 1300 Beaubien you'll find law enforcement uniform shops, bailiffs, restaurants and coffee shops.

Finally, is it at all possible that the redevelopment of Michigan Central Depot could be a vehicle that creates jobs in areas outside of the downtown core of Detroit?

It seems that most of the redevelopment plans we've seen over the last 15 years have focused attention on the downtown core of the city and not the communities that surround the immediate downtown area. Neighborhoods such as the Briggs community, Historic Corktown, and Southwest Detroit could realize enhanced economic growth when this regional landmark is put back to work.

There have been redevelopment and restoration projects in other cities that provide support for a Michigan Central Depot redevelopment project. Studies have shown that America's historic rail stations have driven economic development and community revitalization while serving a larger need in regional development throughout the United States. In some cases, rehabilitating these stations has restored a form of transportation to the areas they once served.

** South Boston acquired $450 million from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration to redevelop underground bus rapid transit stations adjacent to their World Trade Center, a new Convention Center and the new courthouse. Additionally, in 1991 Congress made the rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities eligible for transportation enhancement funding. Money is included for improved pedestrian access, landscaping, public art, and nearby streetscape improvements.

** Evanston, Illinois, home of Northwestern University, recently completed its Davis Street Transportation Center with the help of tax increment financing for site preparation, environmental remediation and streetscape improvements. Cook County provides funding to preserve landmark building through its state sales tax. Moreso, transit planning efforts give the aging community on Chicago's north border, a direction and commitment. It paves the way for new development.

** Memphis, Tennessee's South Main area - began to restore its trolley system and the Central Station in 1993 as a mixed-use intermodal center. Among the attractions found there today is the National Civil Rights Museum. Federal, state, and city funding joined with city agencies Center City Commission, preservationists and neighborhood groups to devise a plan for the station's rebirth.

Case examples and written information is available that clearly demonstrates how these efforts bring back cities, improve transit, and build new development to encourage this transit use. And while it may be more difficult to find, there are also studies that will show how transit, the development that supports it, neighborhood revitalization and historic preservation serve the common goals of all they reach and increase the potential for success for each of them.

Michigan Central will rejuvenate as a symbol of hope and renewal in the southeast Michigan region's core city? Preservation Wayne says "yes," save the building. Detroit's image can only be enhanced by its ability to turn around what has been allowed to fall into ruin.

Jim Turner is the president of Preservation Wayne. The story is brought to you by Urbanity Now news service.

For further inquiries contact
Preservation Wayne representatives or Jim Turner:
Phone: 313-577-3559
Mail to:

Preservation Wayne
4735 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202

Preservation Wayne
P.O. Box 02562
Detroit, MI 48202

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