Stop us if you’ve heard this one: The Packard plant—that forever-crumbling bastion of ruin porn on Detroit’s East Grand Boulevard that perennially seems on the cusp of rebirth or decimation—is in danger of facing the wrecking ball.
This time, it’s Detroit’s mayor who has the plant in his sights.”My mother… she said to me, ‘When are you going to finally get rid of it?'” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told the Detroit Free Press last week after winning a third term in office. “I told her, ‘Mom, I’m going to get it done this term.
Though parts of the plant remained occupied after Packard ceased production in 1954, other areas have fallen into disrepair due to squatters, scrappers, vandals, and exposure to the elements. Hopes for the plant’s revitalization ran high after Peru-based developer Fernando Palazuelo bought much of the plant at a foreclosure auction for $405,000 in December 2013 and promised to turn it into a complex of nightclubs, apartments, restaurants, breweries, and art galleries. The plans also included a go-kart track and an automobile museum as a nod to the factory’s history.
Palazuelo intended to spend as much as half a billion dollars on the project over 15 years, and for a while, it looked as though he might just follow through. He negotiated tax breaks and other incentives to help fund the project. His company, Arte Express, hired crews to secure and clean out the main administration building, then hosted a groundbreaking ceremony in 2017. He hired Albert Kahn Associates, the architecture firm named for the man who originally designed this reinforced-concrete building in 1903, to oversee the restoration of certain aspects of the plant. On at least a couple of occasions, architects and designers emboldened by Palazuelo’s efforts made their own pitches for how the Packard Plant could be reused or reimagined. The media followed the project and posted profile after profile of the developer.