Water Wheel Centre Management

The Water Wheel Centre is owned and managed by R&D Land Development. The owners were actively involved in the restoration of the building, and remain active as building managers today.

Bringing New Life to an Historic Treasure

Owners Rick and Diane Cox purchased the Ford Valve Plant from Ford Motor Company in 1994. They undertook extensive renovations to convert the former factory, while remaining true to the building's architectural heritage.

The couple donated nine acres of the surrounding land to the City of Northville to be used for public parks and recreation, including a baseball park known as Ford Field.

The renovated building served as headquarters of their company R&D Enterprises, manufacturers of marine and industrial heat exchangers, and a supplier of fuel coolers to Ford's Dynamometer Laboratory. In 2005, R&D Enterprises relocated to neighboring Plymouth when product demand drove company expansion beyond the available space.

The Coxes maintained ownership of the building and have converted it to upscale commercial/studio/office lease space, renaming it Water Wheel Centre.

The Ford Connection

For Rick Cox, owning the former Ford plant is getting back to his roots. Cox, who holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri–Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science & Technology), began his career as a test engineer for Ford Motor Company back in 1970.

A life-long performance car aficionado, Cox won several trophies in the mid-1970s racing the German-built Ford Capri at Michigan's Milan Dragway. In his spare time, Cox enjoys restoring classic cars.

"Through my whole life and career, I have been connected with Ford Motor Company," Cox reflects, "and have been committed to upholding Ford's reputation and preserving Ford's heritage."

He continues, "I have owned 13 Ford vehicles in my lifetime and am actively searching for a restored 1936 Ford Coupe to display on the front lawn of the Water Wheel Centre to commemorate the year the building was built."

Cox's dream is to own one of Ford's latest performance cars, the limited edition 2017/18 Ford GT. "I think it would only be fitting that the new Ford GT should be displayed next to the '36 Ford Coupe to draw attention to the innovation Ford has shown throughout the years, and to serve as a reminder of Ford Motor Company's impact on the history of our community."

Antique Worthington air compressor once used in the manufacturing process at the Ford Valve Plant
The renovation called for the installation of energy-efficient double-pane argon-filled low-e glass windows in the original frames. Ultimately, over 9,000 windows were replaced into the original steel frames, which had been stripped and repainted.
Antique Worthington air compressor once used in the manufacturing process at the Ford Valve Plant
Contemporary industrial loft-style offices house engineering, technology and architecture firms.