Michigan Central Launches with Newlab Opening in Reimagined Book Depository
April 24, 2023
Michigan Central, the new 30-acre center advancing mobility-focused technologies, today celebrated the official grand opening of Newlab Detroit’s headquarters in the restored Book Depository building. The official launch of Michigan Central – the vision of Ford executive chairman Bill Ford – represents a major milestone toward creating a world-leading open platform to accelerate the development of breakthrough solutions at the intersection of mobility and society.
“Five years ago, we set out to create a place that would accelerate Detroit and our region’s role in solving the most pressing mobility challenges and change people’s lives for the better,” said Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford Motor Company. “With the opening of Newlab Detroit in the Book Depository, the first building completed in Michigan Central’s campus, that vision is becoming a reality. We see an opportunity to bring new companies and jobs to Michigan, while also attracting the best and the brightest talent for our industry.”
Newlab at Michigan Central will create a center of gravity for startups, entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists to build breakthrough companies in Detroit. Building on its success in Brooklyn, Newlab is scaling its model of applied innovation to create the conditions for a sustainable high-tech startup ecosystem to take hold in the region.
Originally built as a post office and mail-sorting facility, and then used as the Detroit Public Schools’ Book Depository, this historic, 1936 Albert Kahn-designed Art Deco landmark is now a center of innovation and technology. Michigan Central collaborated with Newlab to reimagine the building as a 270,000-square-foot dynamic workplace with purpose-built labs to advance innovation.
Already, Newlab Detroit, has attracted more than 150 members from more than 25 companies, a third of which are led by founders who are underrepresented in tech. Half of the companies are from the Detroit area, and the rest have come to Detroit from around the country and the world to join Newlab at Michigan Central. Collectively, the companies already located at Newlab have raised more than $500 million in venture capital funding.
“Michigan Central is a first-of-its-kind open platform, underpinned by Ford’s commitment to help advance future technologies and skills. It will become a proving ground to drive new innovation across physical solutions, social and economic mobility,” said Joshua Sirefman, CEO of Michigan Central. “This is just the start for Michigan Central as we look to scale the attraction of more companies and investment from around the globe to make an impact here in Detroit and Michigan that will be felt across the world.”
Newlab at Michigan Central
Newlab will build and activate the high-tech startup ecosystem at Michigan Central. In Detroit, Newlab is scaling its model of applied innovation which is designed to accelerate the development, scale and adoption of critical technologies across mobility, energy and materials.
Among the industry-leading startups already based at Newlab, are Airspace Link, a leading drone management platform; Cavnue, a company accelerating the benefits of automated vehicles through advanced roadways; Grounded, a company developing electrified recreational vehicles; wheel.me – autonomous, anything – wheel.me , a Norway-based robotics company that invented the world’s first and only autonomous wheel; and JustAir, a Detroit-based startup developing local air pollution monitoring solutions and many others.
Newlab will connect these and future member companies with the resources they need to build faster, stronger companies. This includes purpose-built prototyping labs as well as the opportunities to partner with industry and government stakeholders through pilot projects designed to validate commercial pathways and de-risk technology adoption. Newlab will also support direct venture investment through its exclusive partnership with New System Ventures (NSV), a new climate-tech venture capital firm with boots on the ground at Michigan Central, ensuring great companies don’t have to leave the region to access the capital they need to scale.
Newlab will leverage Michigan Central’s strategic advantages and agile platform for experimentation which covers 30 acres of networked geography in a unique urban context and a Transportation Innovation Zone designated with expedited permission to enable rapid pilot deployment and iteration in the public right of way.
“We are in a crucial period in history where we need to accelerate the development and deployment of critical technologies, but in ways that are human-centered and equitable. Michigan Central is building an unprecedented platform to make this possible,” said David Belt, co-founder of Newlab. “Newlab is dedicated to turning world-changing ideas into real-world solutions and we are honored to be partnering with Michigan Central, the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan to help cement Detroit’s position as the leader in mobility and drive transformative, innovation-led economic development.”
Michigan Central’s Impact in Detroit
To lead as a trailblazer in mobility, Detroit must galvanize talent and capital to build a world-class innovation ecosystem. Michigan Central is the platform catalyzing this transformation and supports Detroit’s evolution as a mobility tech center.
“Newlab at Michigan Central is essential to making Detroit the leading hub of global mobility innovation, and is a key platform for economic development in Michigan,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We are proud to bring key partners together to create good-paying jobs, revitalize Corktown, and create unparalleled opportunities in Detroit as we bring historic buildings back to life. With our economic momentum and powerful economic drivers like Michigan Central, we will lead the future of manufacturing, support entrepreneurs, and keep bringing jobs and supply chains home.”
“Detroit has long been the center of American innovation, and the launch of Newlab at Michigan Central builds upon that tradition,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Michigan Central will be a tremendous economic development engine for Detroit, attracting and growing top mobility companies and entrepreneurs, locally and from around the world, to innovate and build their products right here.”
Projected to attract thousands of new jobs to Michigan Central, the campus will offer high-design innovation and collaborative workspace, residential, dozens of acres of green and open space for the community, and retail and hospitality.
Michigan Central also is committed to helping more Detroit residents and others gain skills they need to join the mobility workforce through Michigan Central’s Skills at the Seams program. Entry-, medium- and high-skill levels can learn through traditional classroom-style courses, internships and fellowships, apprenticeships, and other experiential learning opportunities.
Book Depository Repositioning into Dynamic Workplace & Lab
Embracing the rich history of the building, juxtaposing design elements with the industrial strength and structure associated with Albert Kahn’s work, globally renowned architecture firm Gensler, the Book Depository’s architect of record, reimagined the building with a focus on connection.
Newlab commissioned design studio CIVILIAN, who served as interior designer and architectural design consultant and outfitted the interior of the Book Depository to create a collaborative high-tech workspace and prototyping labs. CIVILIAN and Gensler worked alongside Ghafari, interior architect of record for the project. Outside, MYK translated the interior design philosophy to the exterior spaces and landscape design.