But the main attraction was the hulking train station – long a symbol of Detroit’s decline and now the subject of renewed interest for redevelopment amid the city’s downtown and Midtown revitalization.
Matthew Moroun, son of depot owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, addressed the criticism his 90-year-old father has received over the years for not redeveloping the train station, which ceased operation in 1988.
“Despite the enormous and positive feelings this evening, it has not always been good to own the depot,” said Matthew Moroun, vice chairman of Central Transport, the Moroun family’s trucking and logistics business. “We’ve taken many broadsides about its condition, our plans for it and our refusal to demolish it.”
Moroun noted that in 2009, Detroit City Council passed a resolution calling for the demolition of the building, which includes a 110,000-square-foot concourse with Roman pillars and a 13-story office tower.
The windows Kaline and others marveled at were installed in late 2015.
Moroun’s Crown Enterprises Inc. has spent about $8 million on a freight elevator, the windows, removing asbestos and debris and repairing drainage on the roof, which has to be replaced, said Michael Samhat, president of Crown Enterprises.
In an interview with Crain’s last week, Matthew Moroun floated a long-term vision to restore train service at the depot as part of a redevelopment plan that would likely involve office, hotel and possibly residential space in the tower.
“Today, demolition is unthinkable,” Moroun told the crowd at Wednesday’s dinner. “And the only question is when and how this building is going to be rebuilt.”
A small group of protesters gathered outside the razor wire fence that surrounds the train station. They held signs that said “tax the rich” and “education not gentrification” and led chants decrying the newly opened Little Caesars Arena.