Connected Vehicle Research Center Planned on Old GM Industrial Site

The RACER Trust, Devon Industrial Group and Walbridge Development are teaming up to transform the former Willow Run Powertrain plant in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., into a technologically advanced connected vehicle research center.
Bruce Rasher

Bruce Rasher, of RACER Trust

The RACER Trust, Devon Industrial Group and Walbridge Development, L.L.C. are teaming up to transform the former Willow Run Powertrain plant in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., into a technologically advanced connected vehicle research center.

When finished, the former GM property is expected to become a hub of research and development for the vehicles of tomorrow and a catalyst for jobs in innovative automotive research.

Since taking ownership of the property in 2011, RACER actively marketed the property for redevelopment and looked for a project that would benefit the region.

“The concept was introduced to RACER by one of the premier economic development organizations in Michigan that covers this area—Ann Arbor Spark,” Bruce Rasher, redevelopment manager of the RACER Trust, told Commercial Property Executive. “For quite some time, they have been exploring this as a potential, significant redevelopment opportunity for the region and suggested that this might be the ideal location for such a center.”

Located at 2930 Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti Township, Devon Industrial Group will handle the dismantling and removal of the industrial buildings on the property, supervising the activities of MCM Management. Walbridge Development, L.L.C., an affiliate of the Walbridge Group, Inc., would then redevelop the property into a shared R&D center and test track for connected vehicles.

“It’s envisioned to be a global center for connected vehicle testing and research, which will be available for use by a variety of entities that will be developing a technology of the future for vehicles, including OEMs, suppliers, software companies, government entities and research institutions,” Rasher said. “What better place for this than in Southeast Michigan, the center of excellence for the world for automotive R&D and also close to one of the world’s greatest research universities in the University of Michigan.”

The timetable for the project includes about a year for dismantling and removing the majority of the 332-acre property. The development agreement would define the scope of the proposed connected vehicle research center and the number of jobs Walbridge would commit to attract as a result.

According to Rasher, it will be a number of years before development is completed, but that when finalized, it will revitalize the community, which was impacted by the bankruptcy of General Motors.