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Update On Progress At The Packard Plant Project In Detroit

The Detroit Free Press reported on August 8, 2016, that the redevelopment “could get under way if the Detroit City Council acts on a tax-freeze plan that would cover the project’s first phase.”

At the same time Kari Smith, director of development for Arte Express reported that the condition and structural survey reports for all of the buildings had been completed and eighty-five percent of the buildings slated for possible future use are restorable. Three-million dollars had been spent so far on cleanup and engineering costs at the site.

Smith also announced that restoration could get under way on the Administration Building if the Detroit City Council acts next month (September) on a 12-year tax freeze plan that would cover the first phase of the project. If the tax plan is approved construction could begin, and Art Express had already signed up a number of tenants for the building. Financing for this part of the eleven-million dollar project would come from the parent company, Arte Express of Peru.

Since this announcement no new reports have been found on a City Council ruling, and the general feeling in the Detroit area, 2.5-years after the purchase of the complex remains skeptical due to construction at the site not having been initiated.

You can look back at our earlier coverage of the Packard Plant Project here. The images are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection.

  • The lead photo shows a 1954 Packard Patrician Fifty-Fourth Series touring sedan on display in front of the Packard Administration building and bridge.


  • The last Packard assembled at the East Grand Boulevard Plant on June 25, 1954, was one of forty-two cars produced that day. Body-making and the final assembly line was then moved to a building leased from Chrysler on Conner Avenue in Detroit.


12 responses to “Update On Progress At The Packard Plant Project In Detroit

  1. I believe the date of the last car assembled at E. Grand Boulevard should be around September 15, 1954. Also, E. Grand had not built bodies since before WWII. Starting with the 1941 Clipper models, Packard’s production bodies would be built by Briggs. At some point after the war, Briggs placed Packard body production into the Conner Avenue facility. The plant had originally been constructed to help supply the war effort. Body production stayed at Conner after Packard leased the plant from Chrysler, and only the final assembly line was moved out of the main plant at the end of 1954 model year production.

    • Thanks for the correction – the National Automotive History Collection dated the photo based on a note on the back side.

      As to the body manufacture, my research found that Briggs would no long manufacture bodies for Packard due to other commitments and the automaker installed the tooling in the old Chrysler Plant.

      • The actual history ought to be well known since it was published many years ago in the big AQ Packard history book edited by Kimes.

        In any event Packard bodies were already being made on Conner Avenue in the early 1950s and trucked over to East Grand Blvd. where final assembly was until late 1954 . Chrysler bought Briggs thus forcing Packard to lease the former Briggs plant and making it into the new Packard plant.

        Many of today’s histories have this trail of events hopelessly confused. Even Arte Express web site has claimed cars were still being manufactured at Grand in 1957.

        As for the Ultramatic Packard transmission… it was probably one of the most advanced automatics of the era and others were still swiping engineering features decades later. But it gets undeserved bad raps today. Key is first having proper parts and then having someone service the Ultrmatic who really knows how to work on it. Neither is necessarily easy today but that’s not the fault of the Ultramatic.

  2. Seems like Detroit is turning its back on this redevelopment and focusing it’s limited resources downtown and nearby instead.

    It would be interesting to read the engineering report that found 85% of the buildings slated for development are restorable. I guess anything is possible with enough money but hard to be that optimistic.

    • I know this gem is historically significant, but can anyone really blame the city of Detroit for not jumping in here with both feet considering the condition of the property as well as its location (distance from downtown, which may realistically be the only real business heart of the inner city left, as well as the condition of the surrounding neighborhood)? It would be interesting to know who the potential tenants would be. I would have to agree with the observation that Detroit is focusing on downtown. From an outsider’s (me) perspective, this only makes sense to start downtown and work your way out.
      Educate me and berate if necessary – I’m learning. As a car guy, I really loved my visit to Detroit and will return.

  3. In the early 2000’s I purchased an un-restored 1954 Packard Patrician. Built quality, fit-and-finish, materials used, were peerless. And for that (along with other reasons), Packard could not compete with the likes of General Motors. The Patrician I owned was “Orchard Green,” with a subtle olive drab broadcloth interior. The only feature of the machine I didn’t like was the Ultra-Matic transmission. But the massive straight-eight was a site to behold, and to drive. A real treat. A very close friend bought the car from me, and he still has it, and lovingly maintains the originality. Marvelous machine.

  4. Leon, the last Packard assembled at East Grand was a 1954 Clipper (pictured in Kimes’ book). The Packard shown as the ” last one being assembled” in the photo above is a 1951 or 1952 Patrician 400.

  5. The above assembly line photo shows a trunk mounted air conditioning evaporator unit which was a 1954 option. 1955 production had the air conditioning evaporator mounted under the hood leaving more room in the trunk.

  6. The above comments are all from 2016. It is now January 2018. Any thoughts on the progress being made at the Packard plant admin building?

    The last photos that I saw clearly had a major amount of debris taken out of the building on the inside but no real sign of progress on the outside.

    Thoughts on where the project is as of now??

      • Yes, saw that in the Freep or News a couple or so weeks back. Future plans.

        But what about the main buildings? Specifically the administration offices along East Grand? Again, I’ve seen a couple of pics that show huge amounts of junk taken out of the building. They were before and after photos but those were many months ago. Cleaning is one thing but what about actual rebuilding?

        A huge project to rehab their entire facility and it will take time.

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