Construction on the new visitor center and administration building on the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores continues.

Construction on the new visitor center and administration building on the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores continues.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Ford House officials beam with pride as construction continues

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 9, 2019

 On April 5, from left, Edsel and Eleanor Ford House board member Lindsey Buhl and board Chair Lynn Ford Alandt sign the final beam to be installed in the new visitor center later this month.

On April 5, from left, Edsel and Eleanor Ford House board member Lindsey Buhl and board Chair Lynn Ford Alandt sign the final beam to be installed in the new visitor center later this month.

Photo by Deb Jacques

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The new visitor center and administrative buildings on the grounds of the historic Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores are finally starting to take shape.

The 40,000-square-foot visitor center and the 17,000-square-foot administration building are the first new construction on the estate in more than 25 years and will allow for better preservation of the historic buildings along with enhancements for visitors and new educational initiatives with local schools.

On April 5, Ford House Board Chair Lynn Ford Alandt and board members Martha Ford and Lindsey Buhl signed the final beam that will be installed in the visitor center later this month. They also signed an additional smaller beam that will be kept in the Ford House archives, said Mark Heppner, president and CEO of the Ford House. Completion of the steel structures on both buildings is supposed to be done around late April.

“Right now, we’re wrapping up the skeleton (of the buildings) with structural steel,” said Dave Miller, planning officer for Ford House.

Construction is being done with the environment in mind. Because the estate is a major flyover and stopping point for migrating birds, special glass with markings that are visible to birds but not humans is being used for the windows, so birds don’t fly into the glass. Bird walks are held regularly on the wooded estate grounds, and Heppner said members of the birding community voiced their concerns about the use of regular window glass when they heard about the construction project.

“That’s us listening and them feeling comfortable to tell us,” he said of the choice to use bird-friendly glass, though it’s substantially more expensive.

The two-story visitor center is also being designed to LEED Gold to Platinum standards. Frank Rewold & Sons Inc., the construction manager for this project, dug 16 geothermal wells to create a closed-circuit geothermal system to heat and cool the administration building — one of the ways the project is trying to achieve a net-zero goal.

“The system uses the ground as a natural reservoir for energy,” Gene Ferrera, senior project manager for Frank Rewold & Sons Inc., explained in a prepared statement. “Geothermal heat pumps help moderate the heating and cooling needs by tapping into the earth’s energy. The geothermal system is just one element of the project, which was designed by architectural firm SmithGroup, that will help Ford House meet its sustainability goals.”

The administration building is going to be energy net-zero to net-positive, meaning that it generates as much or more power than it uses, with any excess energy to be used by the visitor center.

Even the parking lot has an environmental component, with bioswales being installed between rows of vehicles so that vegetation can filter runoff before it enters Lake St. Clair.

“We put a lot of thought and intent into these buildings and sustainability,” Heppner said.

Ground was broken on the new buildings in 2017, and the new facilities are slated to open in spring 2020, said Ann Fitzpatrick, vice president of communications for Historic Ford Estates.

“We are right on schedule with everything right now,” Fitzpatrick said.

The buildings had originally been slated to open this spring.

The Ford House is now open again for public tours, following a three-month closure for conservation work. Tours are offered between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and between noon and 4 p.m. Sundays. The Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores. For more information, visit www.fordhouse.org or call (313) 884-4222.