The Metro: The transformation of Detroit’s iconic Michigan Central Station

Richard Hess, principal architect at Quinn Evans and project manager for the Michigan Central Station’s restoration, joined the show to discuss the process. 

An interior view of the renovated Michigan Central Station, June 2024.

An interior view of the renovated Michigan Central Station, June 2024.

While lots of talk is surrounding Michigan Central Station’s grand reopening concert on Thursday, there are many who are much more intrigued by the restoration of the iconic building and the history behind its architecture.  

Michigan Central Station has stood for over a century. That means renovating the 30-acre property was costly — totaling about $940 million. Over the last six years, over 3,000 workers invested about 1.7 million hours in construction and restoration efforts, according to Michigan Central.

But what were the goals for the renovation project? And, what kind of story is the new design meant to tell? Richard Hess, principal architect at Quinn Evans and project manager for the Michigan Central Station’s restoration, joined The Metro on Thursday to discuss the process. 

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Hess says Michigan Central Station is a monumental symbol of Detroit.

“When Michigan Central Station was originally designed, it was designed as the tallest railroad station in the world and the fourth tallest building in Detroit, you know, and ever since then it has been a symbol of civic pride for the city of Detroit and the residents,” he said. “And you still see it today, right? Everybody still has stories they want to tell about their memories of Michigan Central Station.”

Throughout the six-year renovation project, Hess says it was crucial to improve the architecture without destroying the distinguished details in the design of the nationally and historically recognized structure.

“What most people will not see or recognize during these first tours and visits and stuff are all the infrastructure, all the technology and innovation that’s behind those walls, behind those features that has gone into returning Michigan Central Station for the future, right, and introducing technology that wasn’t there 100 years ago,” Hess said. “And so finding that balance and the ways to do that, and both give a nod to the last 100 years, but while also looking forward — it’s been really important.”

A public grand opening of the restored train station kicks of at 6 p.m. tonight, featuring live performances by Detroit artists Big Sean, Diana Ross, Jack White and more. The event will also be livestreamed on Peacock.

Use the media player above to hear the full interview with Hess.

More headlines from The Metro on June 6, 2024:

  • On the border of Detroit on West Warren Avenue, Gigi’s Gay Bar resides as the longest-running showrooms in Michigan. The establishment celebrated its 51st anniversary in March. Nickki Stevens has been the show director at Gigi’s for over 30 years and is the face of the cabaret show. She joined The Metro to discuss how the LGBTQ community has evolved and what they have going on to celebrate pride this upcoming weekend. 
  • The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s former chief financial officer is facing bank and wire fraud charges after allegedly embezzling $40 million from the nonprofit. The case raises questions about the DRC’s internal dynamics, as well as questions about accountability when financial crimes occur within nonprofits. David Fahrenthold, a New York Times investigative reporter writing about corruption among nonprofits, joined The Metro to discuss this issue.

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