By on May 26, 2015

Packard Plant Pedestrian Bridge Circa June 2014

In shambles with the rest of the property, the pedestrian bridge at the Packard Plant in Detroit is now wrapped in its 1930s glory for the next year.

Last Thursday, workers covered the historic bridge on both sides with a mesh cover imprinted with the structure as it was back when the plant was in its heyday in the early 20th century, Detroit Free Press reports. The plant’s current owner, Fernando Palazuelo, declared the bridge would physically resemble those covers once more within the next year, at which point said covers would be taken down.

The restoration work on the bridge, as well as the attached four-story administration building on the north side, is part of an ongoing effort to renovate the property for commercial development. The building would be ready for four tenants — including Palazuelo’s Arte Express, the company financing the restoration, and Detroit Training Center — by H1 2017.

Currently, Palazuelo is paying $20 million on the first phase of the project, though he is looking to reduce the investment down to $12 million. The $8 million would likely go into his plans to bid on the Fisher and Albert Kahn buildings in Detroit’s New Center historic district this summer, as well as the vacant Book Tower and Book Building downtown; Palazuelo paid $405,000 for the 40-acre Packard property at auction in 2013.

As for the rest of the plant, director of development Kari Smith says the project is close to securing several key tenants, including two large tenants who would be placed in the south end of the property. Future restoration would then be based on each tenant’s needs.

Palazuelo himself would also be a residential tenant at Packard. He’s working on his apartment as renovations press forward, though a few self-imposed goals were missed thus far.

The bridge and building restoration is set to begin July 1.

[Source: Daniel Lobo/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

51 Comments on “Packard Plant Pedestrian Bridge Wrapped In 1930s Glory For Next Year...”


  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I’ll have to go down there this weekend and change my avatar accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Do they have a booth where you can rent an AR-15 and get maps for a self guided tour?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        If you go during the day you don’t need an assault rifle. It’s just a bunch of white Europeans taking pictures.

        If you go at night, the zombies from “I Am Legend” may get you. Tread carefully in the shadows and tunnels during the day as well.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Ironic that it was Albert Speer and Hitler who were worried about “Ruin Value”.

          And now those goofy Krauts don’t even *have* any ruins! Ha!

  • avatar
    Freddie

    Remind me of the history. Why has this facility sat there for decades? Who owned the property? Why were they content to just leave it undeveloped for decades while presumably paying taxes, insurance, etc?

    • 0 avatar

      From Freep:

      “Several buildings were torn down as part of a $5-million demolition plan in 1999, but the project hit a roadblock after it was discovered that the City of Detroit failed to do a proper title search in the tax foreclosure. Years of legal wrangling ensued and the city eventually lost. The Packard survived.”

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        It goes way beyond that. It’s been empty since the 1950s. Even in Detroit’s heyday and during it’s peak population, Packard was a ghost.

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          Well, not quite true. Chemical Processing, an auto parts plater/painter, operated in the plant from 1958 to 2013 (with most operations having moved to Madison Heights in 2010).

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            They were on the site but well away from wehere anyone would find them. Chemical Processing was at Concord and Ferry – two blocks from the iconic bridge. I think they had under 10 employees on site when they left, so that isn’t much.

            It’s been empty by any realistic measure.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Grand Boulevard Plant, which is this facility, last built a vehicle in 1954. Before the 60s, Packard had sold off all of its properties and assets. Until 1998, it was owned by a couple different investment companies. The last one didn’t pay the taxes. The city then tried to demolish it, but there were numerous issues. One guy, who would wind up in jail later, said that the last owner sold it to him and another group claimed they wanted to put a casino there. The city/county just sold it recently in a tax auction. Even that had issues.

      When it comes to the reasons why it was never redeveloped, there is a long list.

      -It is in a terrible neighborhood that was even rough in the 50s and 60s (my family owned a bar a mile or so away).

      -The factory was out of date when it closed

      -Land in Detroit and the suburbs is/was cheap. It made more sense for GM to displace people in Poletown, with the help of Coleman Young, than tear down an old factory. Places like Flat Rock and Orion were basically empty at the time.

      -The cost to tear down the factory is way more expensive than anyone had originally estimated (or continues to estimate). It’s an ecological nightmare full of pollution and 3 million sq feet steel reinforced concrete. It is a hulking beast that no one really wants to tackle.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “3 million sq feet steel reinforced concrete”

        Would all that old rebar be corroded by galvanic and more easily processed now? How is this kind of demo handled nowadays when someone bothers? Is there any business case for recycling that ancient concrete?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          There isn’t enough metal in the plant to make it a worthwhile endeavor. Over 60 years, scrappers have taken almost everything of value, that isn’t structural. The plant was way overbuilt.

          It would cost around $20 million to tear it down and clean it up. They aren’t going to get much out of the materials because the steel is poor quality and concrete isn’t that sought after. Crushed concrete is CHEAP. The stuff from Packard would fetch well under $4/ton.

          And yes, most of the steel is probably is really bad shape.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Wow. So there it will forever remain.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The only thing that may have some value is all the bricks. I would buy a few hundred bricks from the plant and build something in my back yard. They don’t exactly match my house, but I could make some cool stuff out of them.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Absolutely. I’ve got several small planters in the back yard and a border in front of the flowers around half my house from recovered old bricks. I effing love brick.

            As long as they remain intact, bricks just keep looking better with age.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Hahaha.

            Bricks are great. I have a pile of them behind my garage.

          • 0 avatar

            Down the street from the Piquette Ave Model T factory is the location of what was once Studebaker’s main Detroit factory. The building was occupied until a huge fire that started in the meat market on the first floor completely destroyed the building.

            I think the property is finally being developed, but on previous visits to the museum at the Ford T-Plex I’ve scavenged a brick or two.

      • 0 avatar
        econobiker

        “It’s an ecological nightmare full of pollution”

        Which is bad for governments that actually have to follow rules and laws but illegal scrappers could take anything they want without permits along with spreading pollution around.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The asbestos are in the semi-flooded tunnels that scrappers typically stay out of, but there are PCBs in the soil.

          Detroit is full of abandoned and polluted sites. We are talking 40,000 contaminated parcels that the city owns because of unpaid taxes. 40,000!!!!

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    If only Phillip K. Dick were still alive and writing. He’s the only one I can think of to do this place justice. He sensed that epic waste and decay has its own kind of life force.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Packard does have its own kind of life force. It’s somehow kept itself alive for 110 years. The scope of the ruins is unimaginable. Over 3 million square feet of decay, rot, rebirth, and beauty. It’s an icon designed by Albert Kahn, who designed over 60 buildings that are on Historic Places, and built some of the most opulente American cars ever.

      Now it stands over East Grand Boulevard, over a burnt out neighborhood, in a once glorious city, while one man after another proclaims that they will restore it to it’s former glory. None of them have a plan, money, or know what they are doing. So there it will sit, because it has nothing but time. One day it will be like Chichen Itza, Tenochtitlan, Angkor Wat, or Machu Picchu.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        I fear you’re right; these acreages of waste and abandonment are utterly unrecoverable. You have to be a native of what used to be a Big Industrial City to grasp the obscenity. Otherwise it’s just an entertaining cruise-by on an elevated highway, ignorable from your Delta flight.

        • 0 avatar
          mikeg216

          Detroit is 120 square miles, 40 miles of which are abandoned. The same size as San Francisco, the desolation and abandonment simply boggles the mind. It most closely resembles cherynoble..

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Damn, that’s vastly worse than what I’ve seen. Not worth anybody’s while to clean up and redevelop, it’ll just have to crumble on its own and be overgrown.

            It’ll give a whole new meaning to “industrial park”.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Explain!

    https://goo.gl/maps/jvYG1

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Such beauty although also rough .

    Thanx for the link to the photos .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Is that guy who was living at the plant, Allan Hill, finally going to have to move?

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    As much as I love classic Packards, I know that they created their own black hole which sucked all the light and life out of their company.

    Not to knock the good people of Detroit, but manufacturing isn’t coming back, nor are jobs, unless small-scale counts. It would take a LOT of small stuff to have an impact.

    Why do I get the sense that this project will only go forward with a certain amount of tax incentives which will mysteriously disappear, creating a bigger black hole into which more life will be sucked out of this place?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The state, county, and city aren’t throwing money at this plant. If they were going to, they could have just done it themselves.

      Most Detroiters/Michiganders know that the auto jobs aren’t coming back. Michigan has lost over 200,000! manufacturing jobs since 2000. There is no possible way to replace that loss of wealth and income.

      • 0 avatar
        FAHRVERGNUGEN

        Thanks BB. The question begs to be asked then.

        Why is this happening, and why would a private developer put money into an area that hasn’t seen daylight in 60 years? It cannot be just for charitable purposes. What vision can he claim? The cynic in me has none for this project.

        Maybe the developer is being granted major chunks of similarly blighted areas, within which he will have free rein over creating his own Private Idaho.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Fernando Palazuelo wants to create a “perfect town” in the Packard complex. He says he needs $400 million in financing to see his vision through. He is trying to get state and federal brownfield tax credits. I don’t have a problem with that. The tax credits are going to be spent on the site regardless.

          The grand plan is a mixed use project with light industrial, commercial use, retail, residential housing. The site is 30 acres, so there is plenty of room. The surrounding land is cheap too.

          My issue is that the plant is in the wrong neighborhood. If it was adjacent to downtown, midtown, or new center, I may give it a chance. I spent much of my youth in a bar nearby. The neighborhood has crumbled. My family sold the bar after my grandfather was shot (he survived). It burned down with much of the rest of the neighborhood by the early 2000s. Even on that area of East Grand Boulevard, once the address of Diana Ross, The Temptations, Four Tops, etc, there is nothing but adult care homes and blight.

          Since I am so passionate about that area of the city and the downfall of Detroit has so personally affected me, I probably should write a piece about it.

          • 0 avatar
            FAHRVERGNUGEN

            Great. Another urban oasis, surrounded by decrepitude, through which no one will want to venture.

            The only aspect which makes sense is the need for $400 REALLY large. Tax credits won’t matter when he walks away from this thing.

            Paint it red, with a sign that says “Welcome to Hell”.

            All I see here is paintball, prison and / or public housing project.

          • 0 avatar
            picard234

            Bball, although I rarely comment, I see that you do frequently and I would be interested to read your piece on the city. Not sure if they would publish it on this site, but they should!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Excellent idea. Bball I demand such a piece, get crackin’.

          • 0 avatar
            FAHRVERGNUGEN

            Bball boots on the ground would be superb. Many of us are fans of urban archaeology, and probably few are as cynical as me.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Ronnie has done a great job with Detroit pieces, but I’ll have to start writing. Thank you for the encouragement.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with FAHRVERGNUGEN, take the “man on the street” approach and get your boots dirty in the thick of things. Make it your “own” so to speak.

          • 0 avatar
            FAHRVERGNUGEN

            Being an old railfan, too, I really like the images where the old rusted rails lead into…..nothing….as if our collective memories were scrubbed by an atomic blast, and only the concrete pad remains….

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Use the best remaining buildings and the 30 acres to create a self-contained post-secondary educational institution. Possibly one specializing in technology and industrial design.

    Dorm rooms, lecture halls, libraries, meeting areas, and gymnasia and fitness facilities. Repurposed industrial sites can be converted into this type of use.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Failing that the largest prison facility?

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I’m rooting for this guy but as stated above, the location is still a huge problem. In the future? Who knows . . . he better have guards 24/7 to keep the scrappers at bay.

    I wonder if the city has finally gotten the water shut off. Just a few years ago, urban explorers brave enough to go into the bowels of that place discovered city water lines still flowing!!! Fracking unbelievable.

    One thing’s for sure – this plant has been ground zero for ruin pron ( swap middle letters) over the past couple of decades.

  • avatar
    andrewallen

    What a crying shame that a company capable of manufacturing Rolls Royce engines only 10 to 20% down on power output and reliability versus the made in Great Britain real deal but in much greater quantities and lower prices should find itself out of business. Perhaps they should (like General Electric, Pratt and Whitney etc.) have copied the British jet engine designs, and kept going that way. Imagine American Rolls Royce cars with the Packard name price quality and reliability available today. We would perhaps again end up with something like the North American P51 Mustang.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Just give it a few more years until this guy runs out of money, then it’ll sit for some more years… before someone else comes along with big dreams in their eyes.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Scoutdude: You don’t want to use that wrap stuff on your calipers, it says it is for wheels and accessories and...
  • Scoutdude: Back when we used to turn rotors instead of replace them it wasn’t uncommon to find “Jesus...
  • Peter Gazis: FreedMike The Pilot has more space. Becky wins!
  • Scoutdude: There are some premium calipers out there that are powder coated in the OE color if that was they way the...
  • Jeff Semenak: I bought a 2001 Olds Bravada used, in 2004. The most left Button under the Stereo was unmarked and, the...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber