The Detroit Packard Plant is a former car factory in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The beginning of the construction and the opening of the plant took place in the same year – 1903. It became the most advanced plant in the world.
The production and office area of the plant was 325,000 square meters. The land area was 16 hectares.
Famous Michigan architect Albert Khan designed the building using Trussed Concrete Steel Company products. The Packard plant is an early example of Detroit’s standard industrial architecture.
This project was the starting point for Khan’s career, following which he went onto to design buildings for Ford and many universities in Michigan.
The Detroit Packard Plant was the first industrial site in the United States where reinforced concrete was used in the construction. The brick-concrete bridge was originally located above the roadway, and its length was about 150 feet (about 46 meters).
The abandoned complex is located on the East Grand Boulevard in the eastern part of the city. More than 80 craftsmen were employed to work in this automotive construction plant.
The cars were made first by the Packard Motor Car Company then the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.
The Packard Motor Car Company introduced innovations such as the modern steering wheel and 12-cylinder engine. This company also attracted some wealthy buyers worldwide.
The Packard plant produced engines for the P-51 Mustang fighter during World War II. After that, the plant began to produce cars that were suitable for the middle classes.
However, the Packard Plant was not able to stay in the market as it faced strong competition, and it closed in 1958. The last car was called simply ‘the Packard.’ Some attempts were made to resume production, but it didn’t work out.
Some industrial tenants continued to use the plant for their own purposes. In the 1990s, this place was also used as a party location. For example, the Spastik party which was organized by Richie Hawtin was held there.
The site of the former factory also proved of interest to filmmakers and urban researchers, so much so that security around the facility had to be increased.
Over the years, the plant has become a most intriguing building and a vivid reminder of the industrial strength of Detroit.
In September 2013, the building was put up for auction. The initial reserve was $975,000. However, there were no takers at this price.
In October 2013, another auction put the building up for sale with a starting bid of $21,000. Dr. Jill Van Horn of Texas ended the auction with the winning bid of $6,038,000.
Van Horn teamed up with investors from Detroit and other international firms to purchase the building. She wanted to convert the site into an assembly plant as an ‘economic engine.’
Unfortunately for Van Horn, she did not pay the full amount on time. Consequently, the site was offered to Chicago property developer Bill Hult whose bid of $2,003,000 was the second highest. He also failed to pay the full amount, although he did make some non-refundable payments.
At about the same time in 2013, Spanish investor Fernando Palazuelo became interested in the Packard plant and expressed his desire to purchase it. Palazuelo bought the plant for $405,000.
He had many plans for the site through his holding company, Arte Express. To begin with, he decided to try and attract a large auto parts manufacturer to occupy the site. However, he also wanted to make it a workplace for artists as well as a go-kart track.
In 2017, the holding company began working on the construction of a building with office space. By 2018, the company had managed to complete most of the administrative building.
Amazon’s The Grand Tour filmed one episode in Detroit in June 2018, where the plant was able to be seen. The episode debuted in January 2019.
On January 23, 2019, the iconic bridge that passed through East Grand Boulevard collapsed. A day later, BlueStar demolition crews began to demolish and separate the remains of the bridge from the buildings.
In its current state, the Packard site mostly attracts urban researchers and graffiti artists who come to leave their work on the walls.
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