Demolition Of Detroit’s Packard Plant

I first visited…or should I say, I first had an actual chance to explore the Packard Plant without running into trouble (at least in Detroit) in 2014. The first two attempts made at exploring here in previous years had ended quite unfavorably for my friends and I. The first time, upon seeing a car’s windows being smashed and the car quickly looted as soon as we neared the factory, we had all figured another day would be better, and continued our day elsewhere. The second attempt ended by us being chased, leading to me actually having to drive THROUGH the Packard plant over piles of garbage and who knows what, in the dark evening, in my little Chevy Cruze. So I guess you could say that really was the first time I had explored inside the factory. They had chased us for miles back near Downtown Detroit. But that’s really a story for another time. Finally, a third attempt to explore Packard was made in 2014, only some hours after having had a team of police on us in Toledo; a story which actually made into a Chinese newspaper. This time though, the Packard explore was a success…only 8 years later into my love of exploring old buildings. Doesn’t matter though, I’m glad I had the chance to see it! Even more so now knowing its unfortunate fate soon to come.

Scrolling across the Internet the other day I stumbled into an article, which shortly after was also sent to me by at least 30 people.

On March 31, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan had ordered that the Packard Plant must be cleared of debris and finally demolished. The order states that the owner, Fernando Palazuelo must start abatement within 42 days of the order, and complete demolition of the entire factory within 90 days. This is no small feat, as the 3,500,000-square-foot structure stretches across several city blocks. 

The judge stated in his order that the buildings “are a public nuisance which interfere with common rights enjoyed by the general public by significantly threatening the public’s health, safety and welfare.”

It seems as though the judge had become fed up with Palazuelo after he failed to appear at a March 24 trial. Since purchasing the property in 2013, Palazuelo has amassed millions in drainage bills, property taxes, and blight tickets. 

If demolition work is not completed within the 90 days given, the city will be authorized to step in and complete it themselves, with Palazuelo still being responsible for costs. The city of Detroit is determined to finally rid the area of the massive abandoned factory.

From what I had heard and a little bit of what I had seen, Palazuelo’s company Arte Express Detroit had been making some significant progress on some of the buildings. However, in 2016 as Palazuelo was unable to secure funding for the entire project planned, he asked City Council to approve a 12-year tax freeze.

Over the years, there had been little work done towards the proposed $350 million redevelopment project, though there had been occasional clean-ups and tours of the site. In 2019, things got worse for the plant when the pedestrian bridge over Grand Boulevard collapsed to the road below. In October 2021, things continued downhill for Palazuelo when he lost tax incentives as the Detroit City Council ended a brownfield redevelopment plan for the plant due to lack of progress.

The Packard Plant in Detroit, Michigan can surely be referenced as one of the most talked about car manufacturing plants in America. The Packard plant – designed by architect Albert Kahn – ran production from 1903 to 1958. The Packard plant was noted as the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world. Over the many years that this plant has sat vacant, scrappers and vandals have torn away at any piece they could.

The 3,500,000-square-foot plant was designed by Albert Kahn Associates using Trussed Concrete Steel Company products. The plant is also known for being the first automotive factory to be constructed with reinforced concrete in the United States.

After closing in 1958, the building was still used for storage until the late 1990s. During the 1990s, the vacant buildings were used to host underground raves, which included the Spastik party, hosted by Richie Hawtin. Other buildings on the property remained in use by businesses up through the early 2000s, with the final tenant – Chemical Processing – vacating the premises after 52 years.

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