The Reawakening Of Michigan Central Station
I'm fascinated by witnessing and learning to understand progress. Whether it's a musician I've followed for five albums or a freeway I've driven for years while under construction, I'm obsessed with understanding the nuances of progress. Despite all the curious inquisitions, I've never photographed progress intentionally until 2015. Throughout the year documenting my new city of Detroit taught me lesson after lesson about chronicling progress. The biggest example of this was the famed train station practically in my backyard. The last train left Michigan Central Station in 1988 and fell into internationally recognized decay shortly after. When I first arrived in 2014 the days of wandering the fabled train station had long since vanished and the building had been secured. Feeling that the icon had been shot to death, I limited how much attention I paid to it, despite it being a quarter mile from my door step. Thankfully its iconic presence and local legend held my attention enough that I began to recognize the significance of its new changes.
The start of July looked no different for Michigan Central than previous months, or even years. Its hollow skeleton stood proudly over Corktown as if its empty sockets were architecturally intentional. So when a row a windows showed up two days later the neighborhood was buzzing. Rumors from February had been validated and The Station began its first face-lift in decades.
By late summer the crew had nearly 3/4 of the building glassed in. I was heading to the West Coast for 6 weeks and I assumed I'd return to a completely sealed train station. As a testament to the real and rapid change happening in Detroit, my prediction was nearly spot on. When I returned in mid-November all but a few columns were finished. As December arrived she was shiny, reflective, and totally sealed.
December brought more than just a full slate of windows. Unseasonably warm weather coaxed out a four day fog event that lined up with something even stranger; two floors of work lights being left on nightly. Resembling a backlot in Burbank more than my neighborhood, light beamed out and beckoned for the attention of everyone in sight. As Christmas neared the light intensified. The nightly illumination had spread from just two floors to six, lighting what felt like nearly half of the 18 stories.
When I took my first photo of Michigan Central never did I expect this scene a year later. With all of the research I'd committed to and the familiarity I'd built, seeing this as anything but a dark silhouette night after night seemed unthinkable. As with any significant change in Detroit came the rumors. Lofts, offices, all it took were a few work lights to ignite everyone's imagination. Witnessing the most iconic building in Detroit awaken from it's perpetual slumber had me questioning everything I'd pointed my camera over the last year. As the fear of missing similar developments washed over me, I settled in knowing that while seemingly massive, this still is really just the start for Detroit.