Ford to replace aging research, engineering campus in Mich.

Ford Motor Co. plans to begin a sweeping overhaul of its 63-year-old research and engineering campus near Detroit this month, transforming an inefficient hodgepodge of buildings into a "modern, green and high-tech" environment that centralizes more employees to encourage collaboration and innovation.

Changes detailed by the automaker today include a new design center to replace the sprawling product development center and historic design dome, a more walkable layout and a building that showcases Ford's commitment to sustainability by creating zero waste and generating its own energy. The new product campus, expected to be mostly complete within seven years, will be served by a network of autonomous vehicles, on-demand shuttles and electric bikes, Ford said.

Ford also said it would renovate its nearby world headquarters building, known as the Glass House, starting in 2021. It's planning a new home for Ford Motor Credit Co. connected to the Glass House and other changes to its immediate surroundings to be finished by 2026.

"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," Ford CEO Mark Fields said in a statement. "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."

The project, which involves rebuilding more than 7.5 million square feet of workspace in Dearborn, Mich., first was reported in June 2015 by Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate ofAutomotive News, which cited real-estate sources who estimated the cost at $1 billion.

Ford, which announced the plan to its employees in a webcast this morning, didn't say how much the work would cost.

The product campus will be able to accommodate 24,000 employees, double the number who work in the buildings there now, by consolidating offices scattered around Dearborn.

It's aimed at helping the company attract and retain top talent, particularly as cutting-edge technology companies in Silicon Valley increasingly compete with automakers for engineers and other highly skilled employees. It also will significantly reduce energy use and the amount of time employees spend traveling to and from meetings.

"They've been spread out, and that makes for an inefficient way for employees to interact with each other," Donna Inch, CEO of the Ford Motor Land Development Corp., said in an interview. "It's very tricky because we have to keep our operations going and at the same time transform the campus. That's why it's a 10-year plan."

The product campus will be able to accommodate 24,000 employees, double the number who work in the buildings there now, by consolidating offices scattered around Dearborn. Renderings show a series of new buildings oriented around a central green area that would replace the main thoroughfare bisecting the campus, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated in 1953. Roads and parking garages would be closer to the perimeter rather than in the middle as they are now.

The campus would be anchored by a 700,000-square-foot design center with studios and an outdoor design courtyard. Ford said its current design dome will be turned into an event venue.

The Sustainability Showcase building will be part of the product campus

"Just as the Rouge manufacturing renovation completed in 2003 set a new standard for sustainability, we expect to do the same as we transform our campuses into a modern, efficient complex that enhances the environment," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. "This project incorporates thoughtful ways to improve the environmental footprint of our facilities, while creating a vibrant workplace that inspires our employees." Nick Bunkly/Autonews

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