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Packard Automotive Plant

Coordinates: 42°22′46.62″N 83°1′44.14″W / 42.3796167°N 83.0289278°W / 42.3796167; -83.0289278
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Packard Automotive Plant
The Packard Plant's administrative building during the addition of two floors circa 1911
General information
StatusClosed, Renovations Halted in October of 2020. Demolition began in October 2022, and second round began in January of 2023. Demolition halted in April 2023, no activity as of May 2023.
TypeAutomobile factory
LocationDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
Coordinates42°22′46.62″N 83°1′44.14″W / 42.3796167°N 83.0289278°W / 42.3796167; -83.0289278
Construction started1903
Technical details
Floor area3,500,000 sq ft (330,000 m2)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Albert Kahn

The Packard Automotive Plant was an automobile-manufacturing factory in Detroit, Michigan, where luxury cars were made by the Packard Motor Car Company and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. Demolition began on building 21 on October 27, 2022, and a second round of demolition began on building 28 on January 24, 2023, which was wrapped up by April 1st, however all demolition efforts by the City of Detroit halted, which stopped finishing demolition work of building 21. The Packard Plant currently sits empty and partially demolished, with many parcels still remaining.

Design and operation[edit]

Under Packard[edit]

The 3,500,000-square-foot (325,000 m2), designed by Albert Kahn Associates using Trussed Concrete Steel Company products is located on 40 acres (16 ha) of land on East Grand Boulevard on Detroit's east side. It included the first use of reinforced concrete in the United States for industrial construction in the automobile industry.[1][2][3][4][5]

The Packard plant was opened in 1903 and contained 10,000 square feet of floor space and at the time was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world: modern, efficient, and massive in scale. By 1908, when an enlargement for the construction of trucks was announced, the factory was already six times larger than when constructed and occupied over fourteen acres of space.[6] At its peak the complex employed 40,000 people, including skilled craftsmen involved in over eighty trades. The plant turned out Packard automobiles from 1903 to 1956, except during World War II, when production was shifted to war material, particularly the Packard V-1650 Merlin, which powered the North American P-51 Mustang fighter plane.[7]

After Packard[edit]

The factory complex closed in 1958, though other businesses operated on the premises or used it for storage until the late 1990s.

In the 1990s, the buildings were used to host infamous "underground" raves and techno parties, including the Spastik party hosted by Richie Hawtin.[8][9] The majority of the property was claimed by the city of Detroit in 1994 after former owners failed to pay back taxes.[10]

A number of the outer buildings were in use by businesses up through the early 2000s. In 2010, the last remaining tenant, Chemical Processing, announced its intention to vacate the premises after 52 years.[11]

The site was subsequently used as a filming location for many movies and TV shows.[12]

Current status[edit]

Packard Automotive Plant in 2009
The infamous "Packard Dump Truck" October 13, 2009

Since its abandonment, the plant has been a haven for graffiti artists, urban explorers, paintballers and auto scrappers, and much of the wiring and other building materials have been removed from the site.[13] In one incident, vandals pushed a dump truck from the fourth floor. Karen Nagher, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Preservation Wayne, stated that she was irked to see people come from "all over the world" to poke around Detroit. "Piece by piece, they're disassembling those buildings, making it harder and harder to restore them".[14]

Despite many years of neglect and abuse, the reinforced concrete structures remain mostly intact and structurally sound. Portions of the upper floors of several small sections in various buildings have collapsed or been partly demolished and lie in ruins in the wake of several aborted attempts at demolition over the years. The City of Detroit has pledged legal action to have the property demolished or secured.[15] Dominic Cristini, whose claim of ownership is disputed, was said to be conducting construction surveys in advance of full-scale demolition as of early 2012.[16][17]

On February 5, 2013, it was reported that aluminum letter placards spelling the Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei" (work makes one free) were placed in the windows of the E. Grand Boulevard bridge.[18][19] Community volunteers promptly removed the letters.

In April 2013, it was announced that AMC's Low Winter Sun would be filming around the location.[20] In June 2018, Amazon's The Grand Tour filmed their first episode of Season 3 in Detroit which prominently showed the Packard Plant; the episode debuted on January 18, 2019.[21]

On January 23, 2019, the E. Grand Boulevard bridge collapsed with no injuries reported.[22] In February 2019 a section of the plant owned by the city of Detroit was demolished.[23]


Due to tax delinquency, the 43 parcels composing the plant were put up for auction in September 2013. The starting bid was $975,000 (the amount owed in taxes) and there were no takers.[24]

Another auction in October 2013 posted a starting bid of $21,000, or about $500 per parcel.[25] This auction closed with a top bid of $6,038,000 by Dr. Jill Van Horn, a Texas-based physician who announced in an email that she would team up with "partners and investors from Detroit, Wall Street and international firms," to turn the site into an "economic engine", refurbishing the plant grounds for a manufactured-house assembly facility.[26] However, the deadline for full payment was missed, prompting Wayne County to initiate talks with the second-highest bidder, Bill Hults, a Chicago-area developer who placed a $2,003,000 bid in the October auction. In a separate email, Dr. Van Horn stated, "It seemed (David Szymanski, Deputy Wayne County Treasurer) had already made up his mind to talk to the second bidder". Hults then made several non-refundable down-payments on the plant, but he ultimately failed to raise the entire sum of his bid.

Around the same time in October 2013, a Spanish investor, Fernando Palazuelo, also expressed interest in securing the Packard Plant. It was purchased for $405,000 on December 12, 2013.[27] Palazuelo, who has developed historic buildings in Spain and Peru,[28] planned on moving into the plant by April 9, his 59th birthday. He planned on having six different uses for the Packard Plant Project (residential, retail, offices, light industry, recreation and art), estimated to cost about $350 million over the next 10 to 15 years. He hoped to bring a big-3 automotive-parts manufacturer to the plant in exchange for a few years of free rent. He also hoped to create a work space for local artists and an upscale go-kart track.[29]

As of August 2016, no redevelopment had taken place at the historic 40-acre site on Detroit's east side. At the time, many remained skeptical that the enormous effort would ever succeed — or even get off the ground — given the nearly half-billion-dollar price tag of the project that Palazuelo had envisioned.[30]


In May 2017, Arte Express, the holding company for Palazuelo, held a ground breaking ceremony for phase I of the project which will include the former 121,000-square-foot administrative building on the site.[31] On August 12, 2017, the inaugural public tour of the property was conducted, which included access to the second floor of the administration building on the complex's western side.[32]

Bust and demolition[edit]

Partial demolition underway in 2022

The city demolished several structures on parcels it owned at the Packard Plant in 2017.[33] In October 2020, it was announced that the original redevelopment vision for the site had been abandoned, and Palazuelo would be placing the property up for sale, with an eye toward large-scale demolition to repurpose the site for industrial use.[34]

On April 7, 2022, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan ordered the demolition of the Packard auto plant in Detroit, finding that it had become a public nuisance.[35][36] The city began a search for contractors in May 2022.[37] In late July 2022, Detroit City Council approved a nearly $1.7 million contract for the demolition of a portion of the Packard Plant.[33] On October 27, 2022, demolition began on building 21 of the northern complex. Demolition finished by the end of December; however, some remnants remained. On January 24, 2023, the city began demolishing a second portion of the plant, building 28, of the southern complex. By the end of March, demolition of building 28 was successful, and all rubble was transported away from the site. However, by early April, it was revealed that the city halted all demolition operations at the Packard Plant, including the (then) ongoing demolition of building 21. The absentee owner was able to pay their property taxes before the deadline came, which allowed them to secure their ownership of the privately owned sections of the Packard Plant. As of early April, new "NO TRESSPASSING/PRIVATELY OWNED" signs have been posted at every privately owned parcel. The city of Detroit may not have the rights to proceed with demolition anymore. The city stated that they will save some buildings of the Packard Plant in order to preserve history but will continue to demolish other portions of the plant throughout 2023. [38]

On 4 March 2024 demolition began again. The City of Detroit, using funds from the American Rescue Plan, expects to clear the site before the end of 2024. Two of the bays of the structure, facing each other across East Grand Boulevard, will be preserved for their historical significance.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Olsen 2002, p. 38 "In 1905 Kahn and Julius designed the Packard Plant number 10 using steel-reinforced concrete, the first such application for an industrial plant".
  2. ^ Smith 1994, p. 59 "Together they built ten works buildings for Packard, Plant No. 10 (1905) being the first reinforced concrete structure in the automobile industry, notable for its lengths of open space between columns and the good lighting from near-floor-to-ceiling windows".
  3. ^ Darley 2003, p. 82 " flexibility that he chose to illustrate was Albert Kahn's building of 1905 for Packard in Detroit, building No. 10, the first to use the Kahn reinforced concrete system successfully, which has been effortlessly extended by an additional two stories in 1911".
  4. ^ Baldwin 2002, p. 197 "His first major corporate client was the Packard Motor Car Company, headed by Henry B. Joy, from whom Kahn eventually designed ten buildings, culminating in Detroit's first large auto plant, the first reinforced concrete auto factory in America".
  5. ^ Sedlar, Frank (June 24, 2013). "Engineering Industrial Architecture: Albert Kahn and the Trussed Concrete Steel Company" (PDF). 2012–2013 MLibrary Undergraduate Research Award Maize Award for Single-Term Projects. University of Michigan.
  6. ^ "Packard Company is Enlarging its Plant". Detroit Free Press. October 18, 1908.
  7. ^ Camilo José Vergara (February 25, 2019). "PHOTOS: How to Destroy an American Landmark". The Nation. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  8. ^ "Even in ruin, Detroit's Packard plant inspires artists". USA Today.
  9. ^ "Five More Unbelievable Places Richie Hawtin Has Played". November 20, 2013.
  10. ^ "Judge orders owner to demolish Packard plant in Detroit". ABC News.
  11. ^ "Packard plant to lose last tenant". The Detroit News. November 15, 2010. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "Detroit Free Press".
  13. ^ "The Packard Plant: Big. Ugly. Dangerous". Archived from the original on December 14, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
  14. ^ Kellogg, Alex P. (November 6, 2009). "How Do You Put the Dump Into Dump Truck? Push It Off the Fourth Floor". Wall Street Journal – via www.wsj.com.
  15. ^ "Detroit still hunting down Packard plant owner".
  16. ^ "Packard plant ruins to be demolished, owner says". Archived from the original on June 10, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  17. ^ "Detroit's infamous Packard plant to be razed. Finally".
  18. ^ "Packard Plant Tagged With Nazi Slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei'". February 5, 2013.
  19. ^ "Nazi-inspired sign at Detroit's decaying Packard Plant is gone". Archived from the original on February 8, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  20. ^ Hinds, Julie (April 22, 2013). "Detroit filming for AMC's 'Low Winter Sun' will put spotlight on city". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  21. ^ Hinds, Julie (January 17, 2019). "Amazon's 'Grand Tour' drives like a maniac across Detroit in new episode". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  22. ^ Zaniewski, Ann (January 23, 2019). "Historic Packard Plant bridge collapses in Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  23. ^ "Part of Detroit's Packard Plant is Being Demolished (PICS)". February 8, 2019.
  24. ^ Anglebrandt, Gary (May 28, 2013). "Packard plant among parcels up for auction of foreclosed properties". Crain's Business Detroit. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  25. ^ Left Lane News. "Packard Plant headed for auction with $21,000 bid". Left Lane News. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  26. ^ "Detroit's iconic Packard plant could soon be back in business". NBC News. October 29, 2013.
  27. ^ "Peruvian developer makes final payment to buy Packard Plant". Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  28. ^ Elton, Catherine (January 20, 2019). "From Barcelona to Lima, He's Breathing New Life Into Empty Buildings". OZY. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  29. ^ "Packard Plant bidder says he'll live there, lure auto suppliers, build go-kart track". Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  30. ^ "Packard Plant redevelopment could actually happen soon".
  31. ^ Chambers, Jennifer. "Packard Plant makeover finally springs into action". The Detroit News. Retrieved August 16, 2017.
  32. ^ Nagl, Kurt (August 12, 2017). "Inaugural Tour of Packard Plant Captivates Visitors". Crain's Detroit Business. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  33. ^ a b Marini, Miriam (July 26, 2022). "Detroit City Council approves $1.7 million contract to demolish portion of Packard Plant". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  34. ^ "Packard Plant owner switching gears from rehab to demolition".
  35. ^ Williams, Corey (April 7, 2022). "Judge orders owner to demolish Packard plant in Detroit". ABC News. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  36. ^ Murphy, Tom (April 13, 2022). "Finally, Detroit's Packard Plant Has a Date with the Wrecking Ball". Autoweek. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  37. ^ Williams, Candice (May 4, 2022). "Detroit to seek bids for Packard Plant demolition". The Detroit News. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  38. ^ Alfana, Dana (October 29, 2022). "Crews begin demolition of a portion of Detroit's Packard Plant". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 31, 2022.
  39. ^ Reindl, JC (March 5, 2024). "PACKARD PLANT EXPECTED TO BE 'HISTORY' BY END OF YEAR". freep-mi.newsmemory.com. No. 306, Vol. 193. Detroit Michigan: Gannett Media Corporation. Retrieved March 5, 2024.


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