The M-1 Railway; what does this mean for Midtown?

There’s a train a’ comin’… Photo Credit:


At the time the El Moore was being designed and built at the end of the 19th century, Detroit was one of the leading manufacturing areas for railroad cars, including trolleys. Now, just a few blocks from the El Moore, rail transportation is coming back to the city.

If you ask the developers who have been involved with helping chart a course for Midtown for decades, one of the primary reasons they give for why they have always believed Midtown was the perfect spot for development was its location. It is close to Wayne State University, it is close to downtown, it is close to a major hospital, and it is close to all but one of the major thoroughfares reaching out from downtown throughout the rest of the Metro Detroit region. That makes it ideal.

And now that the M-1 Woodward Avenue railway project is on its way toward completion and being ready for riders by 2016, it appears there may be yet another reason why Midtown is one of the city’s most desirable locations. As Midtown’s newest residential development, and as a building constructed as a residential companion to the Green Garage dedicated to ecologically sustainable living, the El Moore stands to benefit from the Woodward railway in a philosophical way because the railway will offer tenants easy access to a mode of public transportation other than their cars that will hopefully evolve beyond its current scope into a regional alternative.

Scheduled to run all the way from Congress Avenue downtown north to Grand River, the Woodward Avenue railcar will mark the return of rail transportation to Detroit, a city that for a number of years made use of trolley cars as a dependable mode of public transportation. Once open, it will be easily accessible to those who live and work in Midtown.

Supporters of the rail project believe that the initial relatively short length of the railway, at least when compared to the size and scope of those in other major cities, is only a precursor to a regional railway transit system that would provide numerous benefits to the entire region, not just Detroit. Critics are concerned that the M-1 could wind up being another People Mover disappointment, meaning the gap between intent and outcome could be significant enough to leave the city in the rather  embarrassing situation of not fully stepping up to do what is necessary to return Detroit to the status of world-class city that it once held unchallenged more than a half century ago.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Seven years ago, when a few business moguls and the Kresge Foundation hatched the notion of a privately-funded Woodward rail line, Detroit’s fledgling downtown-Midtown resurgence was still more talk than construction cranes — and the Great Recession was about to slam the city one more time.

But now M-1 Rail is actually happening, prompting Gov. Rick Snyder to relate Monday this story from last Friday, when he was returning from Flint and his wife, Sue, was at the Tigers baseball game in Detroit. Sue asked her husband, “What are you going to do about all that construction on Woodward?” — and the governor replied, “Honey this is the kind of construction we want.”

Only time will tell whether the cynics or the hopeful will prove themselves right, but we’re hoping for the best. This could be a great thing for the city.