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Quite the World, Isn't It?

A great idea for Detroit that I hope really happens

One of the most visible of Detroit's many wasted opportunities, I think, is Henry Ford's former office building in Highland Park, an island city surrounded by Detroit, where his ideas on the assembly line took root and revolutionized the industrial world. The building has been essentially unused for years, and I've thought for more than two decades now that the Albert Kahn-designed building would be the perfect anchor for a Detroit auto-tourism industry.

And now it might be happening.

Crain's Detroit reports that the local Woodward Avenue Action Association is negotiating to buy the building from owner National Equity Corp. From the story:
The association hopes to restore the building and eventually host public tours at the site as an automotive heritage welcome center, commemorating its important role in the automotive industry and in the region’s past, (association Executive Director Heather) Carmona said.

Other possibilities include incorporating mixed-use aspects by hosting tech start-ups from the site and/or turning parts of it into housing.

The site is why Woodward is a National Byway and All-American Road, Carmona said. It’s one of the most historically significant buildings on Woodward, and some would say, one of the top five historically significant buildings in the country.

“It’s literally our story … the story of the manufacturing economy, the $5 dollar day, middle class. It’s a historic resource and economic development opportunity that we cannot let slip away,” Carmona said.
I really hope this works out. Detroiters learned long ago not only to not count a chicken before it's hatched, but probably best to wait until it's fully fledged. Detroit's history is full of failed dreams and frustrated ambitions, and this could still wither and die.

But I hope not. Detroit has a lot of things going for it, and industrial history is high among them. Converting some of these decaying survivors of a great past won't save the modern city, but it can add another dimension to a broad, diverse sweep of positive steps.
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