The Michigan Central is located 1.5 miles from the city center and getting there is a scary walk across a freeway and past empty buildings and lots. This is the second time in 40 years that Ford has tried to revitalize the center city with a big corporate center, the first being Renaissance Center, setting for “Robocop”.

Ford is trying to do things differently this time, but this project has some of the same self-contained elements, including a hotel at the top. The question, common to all innovation districts, is how this one will avoid becoming a land of corporate badges.

For decades, Detroit’s revitalization strategy has been “big”, big projects like arenas, convention centers and casinos, and big users like GM, Wayne State, and the Medical Center. Catalysts of change, however, are small. Ford is to be commended for bringing back a landmark. The real question is how the company and the community can come together to fill empty factory buildings nearby.