Demolition Underway, But Developer Hopes To Preserve Parts Of Decaying Packard Plant

DETROIT (WWJ) – Some preliminary demolition is underway at Detroit’s historic Packard Plant, to prepare the sprawling complex of abandoned buildings for an ambitious redevelopment project.

Project manager Kari Smith is overseeing the first phase of demo work to remove dangerous concrete and debris from dilapidated buildings — part of a larger reclamation effort for the complex built in the 1900s.

Work, which began last Friday, is meant to make the area safer for the community, according to Smith, but also safer for crews working at the site.

However, she said, the hope is they won’t be starting construction from a clean slate.

“The whole project at the Packard Plant is to salvage and renovate all the historic structures that we possibly can,” Smith said, in an interview with WWJ Newsradio 950’s Ron Dewey. “So although the viability on some of the buildings is a little bit less, we’re trying to retain as much of the historic character as we possibly can, so that we can renovate as much as possible on the site.”

Once that work is complete, plans are to turn the abandoned buildings into apartments, shops, offices — even a night club.

Local resident Mike Harris is hopeful the new owners will return some of the luster back to the site.

“I just have memories of the shops that used to be in there,” said Harris. “Used to be the King’s Way market over there, some fond memories of that … Now it’s just an eyesore.”

After two higher bids fell through, Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo paid $400,000 for the 40-acre property in a Wayne County auction last January.

The defunct plant, located along East Grand Boulevard, has not been used for car production since the 1950s. As the years passed, the property increasingly became the target of arsonists, thieves, metal scrappers, urban explorers and graffiti artists.

MORE: Owner Says Big Plans Ahead For Packard Plant
PHOTOS:  A Peek Inside The Packard Plant

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