Packard plant owner misses another deadline, is now in contempt of court

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The fate of the Packard plant is in limbo again, but likely not for long. Fernando Palazuelo, owner of the historic automotive complex, missed a court-ordered deadline of April 21 to file for a demolition permit. He is now in contempt of court.

Earlier this month, Wayne County (Michigan) Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan ordered Palazuelo to immediately raze the dilapidated buildings on the site. The judge’s order came after Palazuelo and his attorney missed a March 24 trial date to address what the City of Detroit claims has become a “public nuisance.”

John Roach, spokesman for Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, told the Detroit Free Press, “As of the deadline at the close of business yesterday, no permits had been pulled for any of the properties listed in the court’s order, so Mr. Palazuelo is in violation of that order. At this time, the city is considering its next step to get these blighted properties removed.”

Detroit Iconic Abandoned Packard Plant
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Sullivan ruled 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 will be responsible for all demolition costs, which is expected to cost millions.

Meanwhile, the Detroit News reported that despite the litigation, the property—which consists of two 20-acre sites—is still being offered for sale. According to Larry Emmons, senior managing director in the Southfield office of real estate services firm Newmark, “There’s no shortage of buyers. We’re just trying to parse through those that can close and those that have big dreams.”

Detroit Iconic Abandoned Packard Plant
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Palazuelo, a Peruvian developer, had big dreams himself when he bought the huge Packard complex from Wayne County for $405,000 at a tax foreclosure auction more than eight years ago. Palazuelo 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. Five years later, progress has been negligible.

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

Judge Sullivan ordered the demolition and cleanup of the complex to be completed within in 90 days or by the end of June. With Palazuelo failing to cooperate, it remains to be seen when the work will begin, let alone conclude.

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