Ford launches tech incubator project in Detroit, gives construction update

By -

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is bringing in Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Newlab, a tech-focused incubator company, to run two mobility innovation spaces on its emerging campus in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

The so-called “studios,” run by Newlab and sponsored by Ford, will operate remotely during the pandemic and then eventually look for sites in Detroit. They did not disclose financials of the deal.

The spaces would draw together a network of startups, researchers and investors interested in solving transportation problems, with a focus on autonomous, electric and regional modes of transit, according to Newlab.

One is slated to start this summer on wider transportation issues from a business perspective. The second will come after, looking at transit problems around Corktown from a “community” perspective — like lack of access.

Ford discussed Newlab, as well as delays in Ford’s Corktown construction, at a virtual community meeting Thursday afternoon.

Ford also held a mobility contest last year through its City:One program, asking for ideas to improve neighborhood mobility as part of the automaker’s Corktown campus. Three won: information kiosks, a transit app for those with special needs and installing public art on a bridge between Corktown and downtown. The recipients were to split $250,000 to run pilot programs.

The City:One Michigan Central Station Challenge was part of Ford’s mandated community benefits agreement with the city of Detroit. It must invest $10 million in an affordable housing fund, workforce training and city planning efforts. The efforts are mostly clustered in what’s called the “impact area” of the project, which includes Corktown, North Corktown and other small parts of southwest Detroit.

The Newlab project is not tied to the community benefits agreement, spokeswoman Christina Twelftree said in an email. Newlab also runs a 5G-focused studio with Verizon Wireless, a prospect mining studio and one to “reimagine urban environments” in New York City.

Thje Newlab effort is part of Ford’s plans for a $740 million, eventually 5,000-worker Corktown campus on 1.2 million square feet. That worker count includes various expected startups and mobility partners, and 2,500 Ford employees.

The centerpiece is the $350 million makeover of Michigan Central Station.

Work continues on the second phase of renovation, Richard Bardelli, construction manager for Ford Land Development Co., said during Thursday’s virtual meeting. That means fixing the depot’s steel structure, repairing masonry and replacing bricks, among other things. He expects work to clear out pollutants in the depot’s train shed area to start in July and finish in September.

Bardelli said he doesn’t expect any significant change in Michigan Central Station’s expected completion timeline, despite construction halting during the coronavirus pandemic. Bardelli said the timeline for starting full construction on the nearby former Detroit Public Schools book depository is being delayed six months. He said Ford has now slated it to start in early 2021 and finish in the first quarter of 2022.

Ford also now appears to be calling its wider, 1.2 million-square-foot Corktown mobility innovation district around the depot, planned with commercial space for various companies, “Michigan Central,” per a Thursday news release. Other plans include moving a building that was formerly the old Alchemy brass factory site to another site west of the station — to be completed by the end of 2023 — and constructing a mobility testing ground behind the station.

Source link

Saurabh Shukla

Leave a Reply