Packard plant demolition begins today

Cameron Neveu

Decades after the last Packard automobile rolled off the assembly line, and five years after Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo announced a (failed) $350 million plan to turn the property into a mixed-use development, demolition of the iconic Packard plant will begin today in northeast Detroit.

The plant is one of a handful of transportation-related buildings that have become popular “ruin porn” attractions during the last several decades.

According to the Detroit News, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and demolition director LaJuan Counts are expected to kick off the demolition of the parcel at 6199 Concord Avenue, which is adjacent to the Display Group and, city officials say, “creates an imminent danger to that building, its employees, and neighborhood residents.”

Packard Automotive Plant inside
Warren Weinstein/Getty Images

The teardown comes two months after the Detroit City Council approved nearly $1.7 million partial demolition and selected Michigan contractor Homrich Wrecking Inc. to do the work. The contract to demolish a portion of the property would be valid through August 1, 2023. It will be funded by federal pandemic resources, available through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Palazuelo missed a court-ordered deadline of April 21 to file for a demolition permit. Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan ruled in March that if Palazuelo failed to start the demolition process, the city of Detroit could legally “engage qualified contractors to perform all demolition and other necessary actions to abate the nuisance.”

Palazuelo bought the complex—two 20-acre sites—from Wayne County for $405,000 eight years ago. Palazuelo’s local company, Arte Express Detroit LLC, immediately began cleaning up the property, and in 2017 it officially broke ground on a 15-year project to redevelop the complex.

Revitalizing the Packard Plant billboard
Cameron Neveu

There was a setback in January 2019 when the iconic bridge over East Grand Boulevard collapsed and had to be razed. Then a year later the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In November 2020, Palazuelo announced he was scaling back his original plan, and in October 2021, a lack of progress caused him to lose tax incentives tied to the plant’s development. That resulted in Arte Express announcing plans to sell the site for $5 million. Company representatives have not commented publicly since.

Packard, known for building high-quality luxury vehicles for nearly 60 years, ended production in 1956. The plant site was used by numerous smaller businesses until the late 1990s, when the buildings were abandoned and left to scrappers, vandals, and the elements.

During his state of the city address in March, Mayor Duggan vowed to save the front portion of the city-owned building along the south side of Grand Boulevard, which he hopes can be preserved for redevelopment.

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    Has any thought about collecting bricks from the old Packard plant with a letter of authenticity? It would be a great piece of automotive history for those who are Packard buffs and / or any automotive history buffs.

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