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The Packard Plant Project Sees a Light at the End of the Tunnel

The Packard Plant Project

Our last look at progress in December of 2014 at the Packard Plant complex made by its new owner Fernando Palazuelo of Arte Express looked promising. Once the cold winter months set in, cleanup and repair work had to come to a halt. During that time more planning and other behind the scenes work was accomplished. Todays post covers some of the progress and includes two very interesting VIDEOS.

The image (above) shows only one of a network of tunnels under the buildings. Many of them are very unsafe and have been damaged by fires, cave-ins, and by scrappers when they took out the overhead piping. It is hoped that after cleanup and repair the maze of tunnels will by open for tours.

The first actual work on the buildings and the site was not able to be begin until the middle of October after all the purchase paperwork was completed, and Arte Express was able to finally move forward. In the last eight months and during the cold and harsh winter a considerable amount of work has been accomplished.

The Packard Plant Project

  •     This springtime photo puts the amount of work needed in perspective – All images by Arte Express. 

This first phase of work included: assessments of the environmental cleanup needed, design work for the architectural restoration and changes needed, preparing permits and working with contractors, over 600 cubic yards of debris and contamination were removed, twenty four badly deteriorated poured concrete columns were safely taken down, and this spring the elevator shaft (photo below) has been stabilized and areas that needed it have had the mortar repointed in preparation for making the elevator operational again.

The Project has also come up with a timeline that begins with the Packard Motor Car Company Administrative Buildings. The first step will be to stabilize and repair the two structures that are connected by a bridge. Within two years Arte Express plans to have over 115,000 square feet ready for tenants needing both office and commercial space.

The overall timeline for the renovation of the rest of the useable structures at this point is between seven and fifteen years due to the large size and poor condition of the complex. Fernando Palazuelo and his associates are working hard and have accomplished more in six months than any of the many earlier failed attempts have in over a decade. We will continue this series when more progress has been made over the summer and fall. You can look back on earlier articles in the Packard Plant Project series here.

Brian Cattelle, a location scout for BARE USA, who has covered sites that have been abandoned in Detroit, Michigan, took this video on a visit to the plant late last summer. This video (turn down the sound) shows the scope of the hard work that Arte Express needs to plan for to save some of the other buildings in the future.

The SECOND VIDEO at the bottom of the post narrated by Joel Stone, curator of the Detroit Historical Society tells an interesting tale of Detriot’s architecture.

The Packard Plant Project

  •  This photo shows the elevator shaft that has been restored this spring. This part of the facility will be needed later on to assist contractors access the building and for moving equipment and supplies. 

The interesting video (below) covers Detroit’s rich history. In it you can learn more about the famous architect Albert Kahn, who designed many of the factory buildings in the city. Other important buildings, and neighborhoods are covered that have contributed to the Motor City’s remarkable legacy.

10 responses to “The Packard Plant Project Sees a Light at the End of the Tunnel

  1. Good luck to Arte Express, it takes vision and guts to create office space in a city with quite a lot of empty offices. Look at the difficulty they’ve had getting the ReCen occupied, had it not been for TARP, GM would be in Warren right now. Its heartbreaking to see the decay, but Detroit has a lot of work to do with its business environment.

  2. David, so glad to see your keeping us in the loop with your update posts on the saving of the Packard factory. Looking forward to them all. Thanks.

  3. In Nashville, they have repurposed the Marathon Motor “complex”. It too was in a seedy part of town; drugs, riff raff, etc. Its clean up is way under control, is home to videographers, graphic artists, coffee shops, galleries, assorted hipsters, etc. It also includes a Marathon auto display and museum. Their most well known tenants are Frank and Mike from the American Pickers, aka American Archeology. The place is a destination and people come in by the tour bus load. My experience? Take a good look around, then head over to one of the two distilleries to slake your thirst. Good Luck, Detroit!

    • I stopped by there last July, its looking good, and you can catch a tour bus to the building and get picked back up after you’ve had a chance to visit.

  4. Wow!!! I knew the Packard plant was large, but didn’t know how large it was. It’s an amazing undertaking to renovate the Albert Kahn buildings and put them to good use. I wish them the best of luck. It’ll take a lot of money and manpower.

  5. I was born and raised in Detroit on Carrie Street. I was 4 blocks from Lynch Road Assembly (Plymouth) and 6 blocks from the Packard plant and about a mile from Dodge Main. It was an awesome time back in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s when us kids would ride our bikes down to the plants and see the new cars being parked in the storage lots before their introduction. Glad to see the Packard plant finally being saved. Lynch road is still there but repurposed and Dodge Main is gone.

  6. I really enjoy these updates. I do wonder though, is there anyone still alive that once worked at Packard? It would be interesting to me to have a bit of commentary,I.E. “this conveyor ran to the paint booths” type of thing, just to help (me) understand the plant layout, and what still exists.

  7. Enormous doesn’t even begin to describe the scope of this project. What I’m hoping is that the group can identify the remaining structures not in danger of collapse and get them weatherproof. The other parts of the plant will have to be demolished, and the sooner the better. The ruined appearance of the plant just attracts even more people to the site that shouldn’t be there. After that, they’ll need an army of security guards to keep the scrapers out – again. I certainly wish them luck. The Book Cadillac Hotel is a shining example of one abandoned structure restored to its former glory. Unfortunately, the history of restoration projects in Detroit is mostly one of graft, corruption, and failure, the Michigan Central Station being a prime example.

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