Development outside of the 7.2 square mile bubble could be on its way

click to enlarge DANIEL LOBO/FLICKR
Daniel Lobo/Flickr
After a lot of buzz and then little noticeable change, the Packard Plant may finally get an overhaul, according to the Detroit Free Press, who on Saturday published a profile on the plant and the renovations in store.

As the paper explains, construction on the long-neglected, multi-sectioned warehouse is dependent on City Council, who has been asked to approve a 12-year tax-freeze plan that would allow remodeling to move forward on the multi-million dollar project. 

"We expect it’s going to take a number of years to pull a profit — but that’s not our main goal," Kari Smith, director of development for Arte Express Detroit — the firm belonging to plant owner Fernando Palazuelo — told the local paper. "Our main goal is the architectural renovation of these buildings and the benefits that this transition is going to have for the community."

While City Council is currently on recess — sessions resume in September — Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, whose district envelops the Packard site, told the Freep that the concept of the plant's redevelopment — and an economic boost in the neighborhood — was enticing. 

"It’s exciting just to see this scale of development outside of Midtown and downtown," she told the paper. "I see it as a catalyst development. Hopefully things will begin to spread out of that area."

In 2013, Smith's boss Palazuelo purchased the crumbling complex from the Wayne County tax foreclosure auction for $405,000. He promised to renovate the former factory as a modern mixed-use commercial, residential and cultural development. And then, well, not much happened.

A banner replicating the original "Packard Plant" sign was hung across East Grand Blvd. and some new security was observed on the scene, but for the most part the massive building has stood unchanged (sans for the addition of a tiger for a few hours last August — and possibly slightly less metal, if scrappers can get around the 24-hour "mall-cops"). 

But, again, Palazuelo's firm contends that this stagnation is likely changing. Should City Council approve the tax freeze and allow the next phase of their 10 to 15 year plan to move forward, we can expect a lot more construction. 

So what would the tax freeze allow Arte Express Detroit to do? According to Freep, Arte Express Detroit would use the tax break to move forward with Phase I and II of it's plan, which includes the gutting and modernization of the former Packard Motor Company's corporate offices and the construction of a somewhat ambiguous "recreational complex." (Phase III and IV — which is not tied to this 12-year tax freeze, includes, according to Freep, the opening of "various entertainment and cultural attractions" such as "a proposed techno club, hostel, artist live-work space and European-style spa.") 

As the Free Press explains it, the current tax-freeze request is a relatively small obstacle when looking at the bigger barriers ahead.

"Palazuelo’s biggest hurdle is still assembling the financing — an estimated $400 million to $500 million to achieve his Packard Plant dream," writes the paper. "Arte Express claims to have the $11 million to $12 million for the project’s initial phase and an undisclosed sum that is needed for Phase II, yet beyond that, financing plans are more tenuous."

Read more about the project and plans ahead here

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