Sale of Willow Run site closes, American Center for Mobility moves forward in Ypsilanti

New proving ground for connected and automated vehicles to serve as national mobility hub for automotive and tech industries 

Nov. 4, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Willow Run, the site that will one day become a state-of-the-art testing facility for connected and automated vehicles, has been purchased, marking another milestone for the American Center for Mobility.

 “This is all part of our state’s commitment to redefine Michigan’s legendary leadership and history of innovation in the automotive industry,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “The auto industry is evolving into a mobility industry with technology that is going to revolutionize how people travel and Michigan will be leading the way.

Willow Run Arsenal of Democracy Landholdings Limited Partnership completed the purchase of the property today from RACER Properties LLC, which paves the way for construction of the new American Center for Mobility facility.

“With the American Center for Mobility, we are continuing to be a world leader in this industry, providing an advanced proving ground that will bring companies from across the globe to Southeast Michigan,” Snyder said.

The Center will be a purpose-built facility designed for research, education, testing, standards-convening, product development, validation and self-certification for connected and automated technologies as well as future mobility. It will be  be located on more than 335 acres in Ypsilanti Township. A conceptual plan design has been finalized and construction on Phase 1 is scheduled to start later this year.  The Center plans to open for business in December 2017.

“The American Center for Mobility will be the most advanced connected and automated vehicle proving ground in the world and will help establish greatly needed national standards for mobility technologies,” said John Maddox, president and CEO of the Center.  

The Center is designed to enable technology and to accelerate the development of voluntary standards to improve transportation systems and ensure U.S. competitiveness worldwide.  The Center will be available for use by private industry, government, standards bodies and academia and will serve as a technology hub, allowing companies to lease office space, garages and other amenities. There also is sufficient room for additional economic investment by companies looking to expand existing or build new facilities close to the testing ground.

“Through the American Center for Mobility, we’re establishing a catalyst for new investment by automakers, suppliers and technology companies that want to be part of where the next-generation mobility innovations are born,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the MEDC. “This additional investment will continue to reflect our state’s ability to attract top-tier engineering talent and uphold our reputation as the center for the automotive industry.”

The property at Willow Run was acquired from Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust following a $1.2 million purchase agreement that was reached in July with Willow Run Arsenal of Democracy Landholdings Limited Partnership, which will then lease the property to the Center.

Once used for manufacturing B-24 bombers during World War II in a factory built by Henry and Edsel Ford, Willow Run has also served as the location of a powertrain plant for General Motors Co. In 2011, RACER Trust took title of the property and demolished most of the factory.  It sold the remaining portion of the historic bomber plant to the Yankee Air Museum, which is converting it to the National Museum of Aviation and Technology at Historic Willow Run.  

“This is an exciting milestone in the journey to bring new economic development, investment and jobs to a property that in many ways was synonymous with the automotive innovation and manufacturing power of Southeast Michigan,” said Elliott P. Laws, of EPLET, LLC, administrative trustee of RACER Trust. “We look forward to the new developments and opportunities that this facility will deliver as the most creative minds in automotive engineering, technology and design work to keep Michigan in the forefront of this next age of automotive innovation.”

With features like double overpasses, railroad crossings, highway loops, and a tunnel, the site provides a cost-effective way to replicate real-world situations in a single location.

The Governor and Arwood both acknowledged the true partnership approach to bringing this project to fruition, including:  the Michigan Strategic Fund, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Charter Township of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority, Washtenaw County (including the Water Resource Commission and the Road Commission), RACER Trust, Ann Arbor SPARK, DTE Energy, Yankee Air Museum, Wayne County Airport Authority, Michigan Department of Transportation and other state, regional and local businesses.

More information on the American Center for Mobility can be found at To learn more about the future of mobility and why it’s important to Michigan, visit