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Michigan Central Station

Some city officials consider it among the ugliest behemoths to pockmark Detroit and have ordered its demolition, but others see it as the industrial age’s most gracious relic, a Beaux Arts gem turned gothic from neglect but steeped in haunting beauty.

…But with 500,000 square feet of space on 14 acres of land, Michigan Central Station is “different from your standard vacant building,” said Mickey Blashfield, a government relations official with the station’s owner, CenTra Inc., a trucking and transportation company that acquired it by default through a property transfer in 1995 and has struggled to find a use for it since.

Michigan Central Station ought to be preserved, don’t you think? Maybe like some sort of urban decay museum. Clean it up a little bit, charge a small admission fee, allow photographers and tourists to explore it. I’d pay.

The last train pulled away more than 20 years ago from Michigan Central Station, one of thousands of “see-through” buildings here, empty shells from more auspicious times.
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Many of the blighted buildings stay up simply because they are too expensive to tear down. Yet Michigan Central is in a class of its own. Some city officials consider it among the ugliest behemoths to pockmark Detroit and have ordered its demolition, but others see it as the industrial age’s most gracious relic, a Beaux Arts gem turned gothic from neglect but steeped in haunting beauty.

Now Detroit has become embroiled in an urgent debate over how to save what is perhaps its most iconic ruin — and in the process, some insist, give the demoralized city a much needed boost.

“People compare it to Roman ruins,” said Karen Nagher, the executive director of Preservation Wayne, an organization that seeks to protect architecture and neighborhoods around Detroit. “Some people just want it left alone. But I’d love to see that building with windows in and lights on again.”

[Click to continue reading Detroit Journal – Seeking a Future for a Symbol of a Grander Past – NYTimes.com]

I found over 800 photos of the Michigan Central Station on Flickr1 but have not taken any myself, unfortunately.

“It’s the quintessential example of urban decay in Detroit,” said John Mohyi, a Wayne State University student and founder of the Michigan Central Station Preservation Society, a nonprofit group formed to save the building. “To see redevelopment of that station would have a major impact on morale.”

Having lost nearly a million people in the last 60 years, Detroit has a backlog of thousands of empty office buildings, theaters, houses and hotels. Downtown alone, more than 200 abandoned buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Most are examples of the Art Deco and neo-Classical styles that were popular before World War II, when Detroit was booming.

But with 500,000 square feet of space on 14 acres of land, Michigan Central Station is “different from your standard vacant building,” said Mickey Blashfield, a government relations official with the station’s owner, CenTra Inc., a trucking and transportation company that acquired it by default through a property transfer in 1995 and has struggled to find a use for it since.

“Architecturally and historically,” Mr. Blashfield said, “it has more of an emotional connection with people than virtually any building in the city.”

Footnotes:
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