Ford Plans to Overhaul Dearborn Campus by 2025

Date: September 17, 2019
Source: Automotive News

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has outlined an overhaul of its Dearborn campus to create a product and development center by 2025 as it continues work on its mobility innovation center in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.

The result is expected to be a 2.2 million-square-foot area that replaces buildings on the 700-acre Research and Engineering Center area, according to a plan set for public release Tuesday. The automaker's Product Development Center in the engineering area is expected to be torn down, starting in 2023.

The project modifies a master plan, unveiled in 2016, in part to account for Ford's subsequent purchase and renovation of Michigan Central Station in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood for a mobility hub.

"It's a dramatic moment in the history of Ford Motor Co. because the last time there was a moment like this was 1953" when the Product Development Center was dedicated, CEO Jim Hackett said on a conference call with reporters.

Ford said in a press release that it "will help Ford speed product and technology innovation and attract world-class talent."

Construction is expected to be completed in two phases, the first by the end of 2022 and housing about 2,000 Ford employees. The second phase is to be done by 2025 and the new buildings would ultimately house about 6,000 workers, primarily designers and other vehicle development employees.

‘A connection to nature'

The design is expected to include features such as shared pathways, coffee shops and other retail space, although the scale of those aspects has not yet been determined, said Christina Twelftree, a Ford spokeswoman.

Hackett and other Ford executives, including Ford Land Development CEO David Dubensky, declined to reveal the development cost for the new space. However, new construction generally costs about $250 to $300 per square foot, so at 2.2 million square feet, the new building could cost $550 million to $660 million.

That's in line with earlier estimates that Ford planned to spend north of $1 billion between Corktown and Dearborn on new space for autonomous and electric vehicle development in Detroit and revamping its campus in the suburbs.

Five buildings on the Dearborn campus have been demolished. Ford employees in the new space will be surrounded by natural elements, Dubensky said.

"In virtually every workspace is a connection to nature. Three-quarters of the campus will be dedicated to nature. We are taking down the buildings that exist along Rotunda and replacing them with walking paths, trees, etc."

Ford also said it will have more flexible workspace and include transportation such as e-bikes, scooters and shuttles and, eventually, autonomous vehicles and other forms of mobility. There will be what Ford calls a "shared transportation loop" that "limits personal vehicle access to the perimeter of the site."

No time lost

The project has been in the works for years. The new building is the result of a multiyear process that has involved a variety of other consultants, including Snohetta, Gensler and SmithGroupJJR architecture and planning firms. Twelftree said Ford is in the bidding process for other contractors.

"We've not lost time from 2016 in that master plan," Dubensky told reporters on the conference call last week. "In that master plan, we put in roads and infrastructure and sewers and parking lots."

The Research and Engineering Center area was developed as a five-building campus in the early 1950s. More buildings were added over the years to meet increasing demand, ultimately growing to 37.

The Corktown campus is slated to cost about $740 million between the redevelopment of Michigan Central Station, which is expected by 2022, and construction of new space. Between that and the $550 million to $660 million the new building may cost, the campuses would total at least $1.29 billion, potentially $1.4 billion.

The company paid $90 million last year for Michigan Central Station, which is seven miles east of Ford's Dearborn campus. When its redevelopment is complete, Michigan Central Station is slated to be the focal point of the 1.2 million-square-foot campus. Ford revealed the plans in June 2018, and work on the depot began in December.

The company received $239 million in local, state and federal incentives for that campus, which is expected to bring 5,000 autonomous and electric vehicle technology workers to the area.

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