Sustainable Storm Water Management at the Ford Rouge Complex Redevelopment Site

The Ford Rouge Center began as a vision by Henry Ford to create a wholly independent, self-contained manufacturing site where every part needed for an automobile could be produced, machined, finished and assembled from raw materials into a completed vehicle, ready for the road. In 1915, in order to turn his vision into reality, Henry Ford purchased approximately 1,100 acres of land located in Dearborn, Michigan, along the banks of the Rouge River, a tributary of the Detroit River. “Upon its completion, the Ford Motor Company River Rouge Complex was the largest manufacturing center owned by a single company, measuring a mile and a half wide and more than a mile long. Within this space, the multiplex of buildings totaled over 15 million square feet of floor area.” (Ford Rouge Center, Environmental Report, 2002.) Not only has the Rouge Manufacturing Center been designated as a National Historic Landmark, but many of the buildings located within the Ford Rouge Center have received acclaim for their revolutionary design, including the Dearborn Glass Plant, designed by architect Albert Kahn, and the Dearborn Assembly Plant, originally built in 1917 to manufacture “Eagle” anti-submarine boats for the government during the First World War.

At its peak, more than 100,000 people worked at the Rouge Manufacturing Complex. A maintenance crew of 5,000 was necessary to support the infrastructure that such a large complex required, including its own powerhouse, multi-station fire department, modern police force, and fully staffed hospital. Today, the Rouge Manufacturing Complex is home to both Ford Motor Company and Rouge Steel Company (sold by Ford Motor Company in 1989). The existing, original infrastructure remains highly integrated between the two companies, including the storm sewer system.

While the Ford Rouge Manufacturing Complex has long been known worldwide as the icon of the 20th century “Industrial evolution,” its existing infrastructure has been aging. In 2000, the nation’s largest industrial redevelopment project, which utilized sustainability concepts in all aspects of redevelopment, was begun at the Ford Rouge Center (600 acres of the original 1,100-acre complex, the remainder of which is occupied by the steel operations sold to Rouge Industries, Inc. in 1989). This project encompassed three major programs: the Heritage Program, the Infrastructure Program, and the Sustainability Program. The Heritage Program included the construction of a new vehicle assembly plant and modifications to the other existing Ford plants to support the new product. The Infrastructure Program included replacement of all aging utilities with new utility systems to assure longevity, maintenance, and ease of future adaptation. And finally, the Sustainability Program addressed the “public” and “environmental” considerations that provided the unique character and programming considerations to complement the previous two programs.

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