Ford's big makeover aims to turn Dearborn into Silicon Valley

30,000 employees will get new workspaces designed to bring them into the 21st century.

Construction will begin later this month on a massive redesign of Ford's corporate campus in Dearborn, Michigan, a project that's expected to take more than a decade to complete.

The company announced plans Tuesday that will transform its physical presence in southeast Michigan and ensure Ford remains a fixture near the Motor City for decades. Most of the 70 buildings where 30,000 employees currently work will be demolished. New workspaces will be consolidated into two main areas, one that will be a product development campus and another that serves as the company's world headquarters.

Employees will work in new, open workspaces that Ford believes will foster collaboration and innovation. They'll shuttle around the 7.5 million square feet of revamped workspace on eBikes, on-demand shuttles and autonomous vehicles. Or they can choose to walk on a central green area that will link buildings with walking trails and paths. Fitness centers and in-house healthy dining options are also planned.

"Bringing our teams together in an open, collaborative environment will make our employees' lives better." – Mark Fields

If the new corporate campus sounds like something a prospective employee might find in, say, Silicon Valley, that's precisely the point. Software developers and engineers have been favoring jobs located on the West Coast rather than Detroit. While the redesign can't do much about Michigan's regular bouts of snow in April, it can bring Ford's sprawling campus out of the 1960s.

"As we transition to an auto and a mobility company, we're investing in our people and the tools they use to deliver our vision," said Ford CEO Mark Fields. "Bringing our teams together in an open, collaborative environment will make our employees' lives better, speed decision-making and deliver results for both our core and emerging businesses."

Autonomous car development will take place within the overall footprint of the overhauled workspace as part of Ford's new subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility, while some of that work will also be done at the company's Palo Alto, California, laboratory. Ford Smart Mobility will use the campus as a pilot location for various self-driving and connected-car projects.

President Eisenhower dedicated Ford's current Research and Engineering Center campus in May 1953. Currently, it houses 12,000 employees. That number will roughly double by the time the first phase of the project is complete in 2023. A 700,000 square-foot Design Center, pictured at top, will stand as the centerpiece on the new campus, and include new studios and an outdoor design courtyard.

Ford's reworked world headquarters campus will contain more than 1.3 million square feet of space, and enhanced green spaces surrounding the building. The buildings themselves will be greener and more sustainable, Ford says. Geothermal heating, cooling and heat recovery will help the buildings cut their energy use in half once the buildings are operational.

"This project incorporates thoughtful ways to improve the environmental footprint of our facilities while creating a vibrant workplace that inspires our employees," executive chairman Bill Ford said.

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