Demolish Packard plant, Michigan judge orders

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Detroit’s historic Packard plant may soon be history. Wayne County (Michigan) Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan has ordered property owner Fernando Palazuelo to immediately raze the buildings in the dilapidated industrial complex, located on the Motor City’s northeast side.

Sullivan’s default judgment favors the city of Detroit, which claims the site threatens “the public’s health, safety, and welfare.” The ruling was issued last week after Palazuelo and his attorney missed a March 24 trial date. The Detroit Free Press reports that demolition could cost an estimated $10 million.

Packard Automotive Plant window ruins
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Palazuelo, a Peruvian developer, bought the Packard complex—which consists of two 20-acre sites—from Wayne County for $405,000 at a tax foreclosure auction more than eight years ago. He immediately began cleaning up the property, and in 2017 he officially broke ground on a 15-year, $350 million plan to redevelop the complex into a mixed-use site. Progress soon slowed, however, and, after Packard’s iconic pedestrian bridge over Grand Boulevard collapsed in 2019, appeared to cease entirely. A year later, Palazuelo announced that he was scaling back his original plan, and then in October 2021 he lost tax incentives tied to the Packard plant development due to the lack of progress. The financial blow prompted Palazuelo and his local company, Arte Express Detroit LLC, to announce plans to sell the site for $5 million. Company representatives have not commented publicly since.

Packard Automotive Plant inside
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According to the Detroit News, Judge Sullivan’s demolition order states that Palazuelo is being “held personally liable for the abatement of the public nuisance.” He orders Palazuelo to get the proper demolition permits by April 21 and also rules that work must be completed in 90 days—or by the end of June. If Palazuelo doesn’t comply, he will be held in contempt of court and subject to fines.

If the developer fails to start the demolition process, Sullivan rules that the city of Detroit can “engage qualified contractors to perform all demolition and other necessary actions to abate the nuisance.” Palazuelo would still be responsible for all demolition costs.

Packard Automotive Plant bridge view inside
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Packard, world-renowned for building high-quality luxury vehicles for decades, ended production in 1956. The Packard site was used by numerous smaller businesses until the late 1990s, when the buildings were abandoned and left to the elements, scrappers, and vandals. Palazuelo’s purchase of the property offered automotive historians hope that at least some of the structures might be saved, but it appears that his time may have finally run out.

Packard Automotive Plant inside
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