The city of Detroit is demolishing a two-block portion of the storied and sprawling Packard Plant on Thursday after the negligent owner failed to do it himself.
The $1.6 million emergency demolition is taking place on a section of the long-abandoned auto plant that is next to an operating business, Display Group, north of Grand Boulevard.
“This day has been a long time coming,” Mayor Mike Duggan said at a news conference in the shadow of the building. “The abandoned Packard Plant has been the source of national embarrassment for the city of Detroit for many years. It’s been a source of personal pain for people in this community.”
Peru-based developer Fernando Palazuelo bought the concrete ruins for $405,000 in December 2013 and pledged to turn the plant into a mixed-use space with lofts, offices, restaurants, and retailers. The estimated price of the project was $350 million.
But since the purchase, Palazuelo has failed to find future tenants for the building and has accumulated nearly $785,000 in unpaid taxes and water fees. He could soon lose ownership rights to more than 30 parcels and buildings at the Packard.
He was ordered to demolish the structure in March after the city declared the 35-acre plant a public nuisance.
“We had an owner that gave us nothing but basically decades of false and broken promises,” Duggan said.
“It took a lot of legal action” to get it demolished, the mayor added.
In the early 1900s, the Packard Plant, designed by the famed architect Albert Kahn, became a proud symbol of Detroit’s industrial rise as it churned out luxury automobiles and decent wages to thousand of workers. It is now one of the largest abandoned auto plants in the world, and has become a lawless wasteland.
Thursday’s emergency demolition only addresses a small portion of the 3.5 million square feet of crumbling concrete, broken glass, and twisted metal. Over the next two years, Duggan said the city is going to demolish a section south of Grand Boulevard and determine what parts of the building are salvageable.
“We’re going to analyze every single section of this,” Duggan said. “We are going to reuse what we can, and we are going to take down what we can’t.”
As the city tries to recruit new businesses, Duggan said he hopes some of the building will be used in the future.
“I want to get this site back to putting people back to work as soon as possible,” the mayor said.
The city started with Thursday’s section because of its proximity to Display Group, which bought a Packard Plant building in 2015 and relocated its headquarters from Corktown.
“These are folks who are trying to operate a business and have to worry every day that the pieces from the abandoned plant are going to fall on their business,” Duggan said.
Detroit Councilman Scott Benson called the Packard Plant “ruin porn” and said demolition is an essential part of revamping the city.
“This is what a city does to improve the quality of life,” Benson said. “This is also part of a revitalization of our city and our industrial corridors.”
Demolition begins on the abandoned Packard Plant in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/ugVPfddKlI— Steve Neavling (@MCmuckraker) September 29, 2022
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