The city of Detroit is demolishing a two-block portion of the two-story, sprawling Packard factory on Thursday after the negligent owner failed to do it himself.
The $1.6 million emergency demolition is taking place on a section of the long-abandoned auto plant that sits next to a working business, Display Group, north of Grand Boulevard.
“This day has been a long time coming,” Mayor Mike Duggan said at a press conference in the shadow of the building. “Packard’s abandoned factory has been the source of national embarrassment for the city of Detroit for many years. It has been a source of personal pain for people in this community.
Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo bought the concrete ruins for $405,000 in December 2013 and pledged to turn the factory into a mixed-use space with lofts, offices, restaurants and retail. The estimated price of the project was $350 million.
But since the purchase, Palazuelo has failed to find future tenants for the building and has racked up nearly $785,000 in unpaid taxes and water fees. He could soon lose title to more than 30 parcels and buildings at the Packard.
He was ordered to demolish the structure in March after the city declared the 35-acre plant a public nuisance.
“We had an owner who gave us nothing but decades of false, broken promises,” Duggan said.
“It took a lot of legal action” to have it demolished, added the mayor.
In the early 1900s, the Packard factory, designed by famed architect Albert Kahn, became a proud symbol of Detroit’s industrial boom, producing luxury cars and decent wages for thousands of workers. It is now one of the largest abandoned automobile factories in the world and has become a lawless wasteland.
Thursday’s emergency demolition involves only a small portion of the 3.5 million square feet of crumbling concrete, shattered glass and twisted metal. Over the next two years, Duggan said the city will demolish a section south of Grand Boulevard and determine which parts of the building are salvageable.
“We’re going to analyze every section of this,” Duggan said. “We will reuse what we can, and we will remove what we cannot.”
As the city tries to recruit new businesses, Duggan said he hopes part of the building will be used in the future.
“I want this site to get people back to work as soon as possible,” the mayor said.
The town started with Thursday’s chapter because of its proximity to Display Group, which bought a building from the Packard factory in 2015 and moved its headquarters from Corktown.
“These are people who are trying to run a business and have to worry every day about abandoned factory parts falling on their business,” Duggan said.
Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson called the Packard factory “ruin porn” and said the demolition was a vital part of the city’s renewal.
“It’s what a city does to improve the quality of life,” Benson said. “It’s also part of a revitalization of our city and our industrial corridors.”
Demolition begins on the abandoned Packard factory in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/ugVPfddKlI
— Steve Neavling (@MCmuckraker) September 29, 2022
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