Michigan Central Station owner floats idea of moving his business operations to the abandoned building in Detroit

From the Detroit Free Press:

Matthew Moroun, son of depot owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun, floated the idea of moving some of the family's business operations into the Michigan Central Depot that it owns.(Photo: Mandi Wright)
Matthew Moroun, son of depot owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun, floated the idea of moving some of the family’s business operations into the Michigan Central Depot that it owns.(Photo: Mandi Wright)

Over the years, dreamers have recommended all sorts of schemes for the old Michigan Central Station, from casinos to vertical agriculture. But it may turn out that the best new use may be closer to the station’s original purpose — a transportation hub.

Matthew Moroun, son of depot owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun and the new public face of the Moroun business empire, told WWJ radio recently that it was possible the family might consider moving some of its operations into the train station.

The Morouns’ Warren-based CenTra (a shortening of Central Transport) is a North American trucking network employing thousands of employees. The family also owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge as well as a growing logistics network that operates in part from facilities at the I-94 Industrial Park on Detroit’s east side.

The Morouns’ umbrella CenTra organization today operates from a converted school building in Warren where they employ hundreds of workers and operate a mission-control center for their far-flung trucking network.

Moving even a portion of that into the old train station would recreate a transportation hub there even if it doesn’t replace the train service that once made the depot famous as a city landmark.

A spokeswoman for Matthew Moroun said Tuesday she couldn’t add anything to the speculation and that Matthew Moroun was concentrating on “doing right by the depot” by continuing renovations of the station. So far, the family’s Detroit International Bridge Co. has spent an estimated $12 million to reinstall electricity at the station, to put in a new elevator, and to install new windows.

Estimates of the cost of a total renovation of the train station generally start at $100 million, but the figures could vary considerably depending on what use to make of the station.

Steve Morris, managing principal for the Axis Advisors real estate consulting firm in Farmington Hills and an adjunct professor of real estate finance at the University of Michigan, said the train station will benefit from the revitalization taking place in the greater downtown.

“The location of the old Train Station has become significantly more valuable over the past three years given its proximity to the dynamism of (downtown) Detroit,” he said Tuesday, also citing the residential growth in the nearby Corktown district and the forthcoming new development on the former Tiger Stadium site near the depot.

Reusing the tower portion of the depot as either housing or office space could make sense given current economics, he said. One possibility not mentioned yet: that Wayne County might move its offices from the Guardian Building, which it owns but is considering selling to an investor like Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert, and move into the train station instead.

If something like that happened, Morris said, the Moroun family potentially could “receive a boat load of tax benefits” for their renovation of the historic structure.

Moreover, with the current push to develop residential apartments throughout the greater downtown area, the train station potentially could find a new use as that, he added.

Any new use for the train station is likely at least a few years away, as it would take that long at a minimum to complete the cleanup of the station and to plan for and complete a transition to a new use.

Source: http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/michigan/2015/08/25/detroit–moroun–michigan-central–residential–office-gilbert/32323385/

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