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Plans for the Packard Plant Project Move Forward

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  • Image from drone camera coverage courtesy of Detroit Drone.

According to a report from the Detroit Free Press yesterday, Fernando Palazuelo the new owner of the Packard Plant complex is moving ahead with his plans to clean up the industrial remains. He is starting within the next few weeks to clear up debris and broken concrete around the old Packard administrative office building and the red brick bridge that crosses East Grand Boulevard.

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  • Photo of the Packard Plant and bridge in the 1950s

After the initial clean up, his plans call for restoring the original four-story Packard Office Buildings and the brick bridge that crosses East Grand Boulevard. He has retained Albert Kahn Associates, the company that designed the original buildings to handle all of the architectural details.

Palazuelo plans on restoring some of the original structures and redeveloping the area for both commercial and cultural uses. He is hopeful that tax credits will be obtainable for preserving the historic site and brownfield clean-up assistance will also help with some of the funding. Plans for the rest of the site are unclear, but the developer has mentioned that a second phase will come later.

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  • Packard Plant Number Ten under construction circa 1910.

We have not found any mention yet as to what will be the fate the remaining buildings on the complex that are crumbling and mostly well beyond any repair. We are hopeful his efforts are successful and a least a portion of the once famous facility can be saved. See our earlier coverage from last year where you can see an amazing video taken by a drone cam here. You can also learn more at the Detroit Free Press. The photos from the Rod Blood Collection are courtesy of The Larz Anderson Museum.

8 responses to “Plans for the Packard Plant Project Move Forward

  1. Poignant that none of the cars in the ’50’s image appear to have been birthed across the street. A portent of things to come?

    • I expect most of the workers who drove bashed-up Pontiacs could only dream about owning a Packard one day. It’s a shame that by the time they has the financial means to realize their dream, Packard was gone. I’m fascinated by the lucky slob driving that huge, glossy Chrysler : he could have easily afforded a Packard. Why didn’t he buy one?

  2. Good luck to Mr. Palazuelo. I do hope he gets the help he needs to save this unique piece of American history. Thanks David for the updates, we do appreciate it.

  3. We Packard owners and fans should wish Mr. Palazuelo the absolute best, even extend what help we might. The Packard plant’s assembly lines would’ve been revamped a couple times since the Company folded Detroit operations in ’56, so we can try to be philosophical about the loss of so much of the plant while mightily glad Mr. Palazeulo is working to save the main Packard four-story office buildings and famed brick arch bridge connecting the old and new, senior and junior, plants.
    Thanks to Fernando Palazuelo, our orphans still have a home.

    And thank you to Monsignor Greenlees for posting this wonderful, upbeat news.

    Re: Mr. Tepedino’s question above, the fellow owned a Chrysler because in those years, it was a better car. ’51-on Packards had good ergonomics, and a Mayfair coupe with stick and overdrive was a nice ride.
    But otherwise, Packard was focusing on their more lucrative jet engine contracts, the legacy of being one of only two automakers to emerge profitable from their war work. Packard’s legal counsel, Henry E. Bodman, rewrote the Rolls-Royce Merlin contract so that it became the basis of government contracts for years to come.
    Packard, seeing the auto industry dominated by GM’s model, increasingly phoned in the cars from 1948-on, when president, then chairman Alvan Macauley left the Company after 33 years.
    In Packard’s heydey, the Company always stood a little above and to the side of the rest of the industry, underscored by Macauley referred to as “the only gentleman in the car business.”
    By the ’50s, the best even the most rabid buff can say is that such-and-such a Packard was “nearly as good” as some GM, Chrysler or Ford product. When the leader becomes another me-too, it’s over, time for a change.
    Since the four chief independents were unable to join forces, they were all doomed. NO independent could approach Big Three buying leverage, clout dealing with vendors, tool amortization, afford the now necessary frivolous model changes/redesigns, costly TV advertising.
    The Chrysler Mr. Tepedino points out above was simply a better car for a competitive price.
    For reasons given many times, the auto business had changed since Packard’s heyday. All Cadillacs 1936-on were downsized, “junior,” more rational products sharing evermore components with lesser GMobiles. Most Lincolns 1936-on were “Ford-and-a-half” Zephyrs. Postwar R-R and Bentley had their bespoke-appearing bodies whacked out by Pressed Steel, who supplied half the English car industry; skillfully marketed, boutique, assembled products, Roll-Royce’s main focus 1935-on aero engines.
    All 1939-on Packards but the final 446 Twelves were junior-based, still the finest chassis in the industry, but their bodies shopworn by the time the 1941 1/2 Clipper debuted.
    Hispano-Suiza survives making pumps for nuclear power plants.

    Without pointless what ifs and Monday morning quarterbacking, those are the hard facts. Yet it’s “Grand (Avenue)” to see Mr. Palazuelo working to save our wheeled alter egos’ home.

  4. There’s a very good article about Alfred Kahn “The Man Who Built Detroit” in the current Bulletin of the Classic Car Club of America. Shows Packard plant when new from a different viewpoint. He did Ford’s Highland Park and River Rouge plants, the Fisher office building and Edsel Ford’s residence, many others. Prodigious output over nearly 50 years. I was surprised to learn his firm is still in business.

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