Ford House Announces Plans for Two New Buildings
Posted: December 19, 2016
GROSSE POINTE SHORES, Mich. (December 16, 2016) – The board of trustees of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Ford House) announced the second phase of its comprehensive master plan to restore, reconstruct, and rehabilitate the estate. The proposed plans, which will be presented to Grosse Pointe Shores planning commission on January 10, include the construction of a state of the art visitor center and administration building, as well as an upgraded, eco-friendly parking system. This is the first major alteration to the estate in 25 years, and the largest new construction since the home was built.
After addressing aging infrastructure issues last year, plans began for expanding learning and educational opportunities in order to meet the changing needs of visitors and more effectively tell the story of the Ford Family. Recently honored with a National Historic Landmark designation by the National Parks System, the construction is yet another way the organization is also preserving the historic estate.
“The addition of these two buildings is an important step in furthering the vision my grandparents, Eleanor and Edsel, had for their estate,” said Edsel B. Ford II, chairman of the Ford House board of trustees. “This phase of the master plan will provide us with the opportunity to interpret the entire home. Continuing their legacy in a sustainable manner is a top priority for the board and for the entire Ford family.”
Meeting the needs of the 21st Century Visitor
The new 40,000 square foot visitor center will be a two-story building in the location of the current visitor center, with space for enhancing the orientation, education and overall experience for Ford House visitors.
Planned highlights include:
• A unique welcoming lobby allowing guests an easy connection to Ford House activities
• A dedicated education wing with two multifunctional classrooms and outdoor classroom space
• Exhibition space specifically for traveling and changing exhibits
• Orientation space with a new audio-visual experience introducing visitors to the Ford Family story
• Expansion of the popular Cotswold Café, which will have 50 percent more seating. With additional outdoor seating, it will be among the few dining locations in the area with views of Lake St. Clair.
• A second floor event space with glass walls overlooking Ford Cove
• Expanded retail space with merchandise reflecting the art, architecture and landscape of the estate, as well as the special rotating exhibits
“One of the first initiatives with our recently crafted comprehensive site master plan was to identify the historic core that is critical to preserve,” said Ford House President and CEO Kathleen Mullins. “The vast majority of staff offices are in our historic buildings, including inside the main house. Relocating our operational activities to a specially designed administration building will take that heavy use out of the house. It will also allow us the opportunity to restore the spaces that once housed the staff quarters. Once restored, we will be able to bring to life the ‘behind the scenes’ story of the estate – what it took to keep the house and the expansive grounds humming.”
A sustainable administrative space
The new 17,000 square foot administration building will bring all Ford House operations into the same location.
“Moving staff to this new location will allow us to restore the historic buildings to more closely reflect how they were used by the Fords,” said Mullins. “The move will also improve our collaboration, productivity and creativity, and allow us to enrich our preservation of the estate into the future.”
The new building will also include a library resource center to support ongoing research of the Ford family history. In addition, the building will house meeting rooms and a special “social wing” with direct access to a terrace for indoor/outdoor meetings, gatherings, lectures and more.
The international architecture firm, SmithGroupJJR, has been retained for the project. Both of the new buildings are designed to demonstrate sustainability best practices. The administration building is designed to achieve a “net-zero” or “net-positive” facility and the visitor center will seek LEED Gold designation.
“As part of Ford House’s commitment to sustainability, both buildings will utilize photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy and geothermal technology to offset heating and cooling for the buildings,” said Kevin Shultis, vice president for SmithGroupJJR. “The design inspiration for the new buildings is a village of Cotswold styled buildings utilizing limestone and glass exterior walls, slate shingled roofs and copper gutters.”
Building on the spirit of sustainable design practices, the project plans have been developed with consideration to migratory birds, habitat and safety. Windows in the buildings will be made with glass crafted to prevent bird casualties often caused by heavily windowed structures. In addition, the project offers Ford House the opportunity to express the work of landscape architect, Jens Jensen, by incorporating native species in the planting areas.
Eco friendly parking
The new parking lot will be designed to preserve nearby wetland areas. Rows will be separated by bio-swales planted with environmentally-beneficial vegetation to help filter and improve the quality of storm water runoff. The bio-swales in the parking lot area will drain into the main bio-swale on the estate that was put into operation in 2015 to ensure water runoff from the estate is cleaned before entering Lake St. Clair.
Estate Operation During Construction
Ford House will remain open during the construction period, tentatively scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2017. Visitor arrival will be temporarily located in the historic garage, with nearby parking provided. Annual events such as the DSO at Ford House, Fairy Tale Festival, Winter Wonderland, Eyes on Design, Mutt March and Pooch Prance will continue to be held on the estate’s grounds. Tours and programs on the landscape, in the gardens, and in the main house will also be uninterrupted.