DETROIT (WWJ) – A ceremonial groundbreaking has been held to kick off the long-awaited cleanup, renovation and redevelopment of the defunct Packard auto plant on Detroit’s lower east side.

Arte Express Detroit spokeswoman Kari M. Smith said crews on Tuesday are working on the project’s first phase and will remove debris and grind floors at the structure’s 121,000-square-foot administration building.

It’s been nearly four years since Arte Express CEO Fernando Palazuelo of Peru bought the massive property for $405,000 at a tax foreclosure auction; and, he acknowledged, some had begun to wonder if plans had stalled.

“It took us one year just to get the ownership,” Palazuelo explained. “Then it took us another year to clean up a little asbestos…to patch it more or less, getting 25 vendors on board, brownfield grants, I mean…nothing is easy.”

Palazuelo wants to turn the dilapidated buildings into apartments, retail shops, art galleries and other businesses with a bright future for the Motor City in mind.

“All over the world no one thought Detroit was going to be able to survive, no?” Palazuelo told WWJ’s Jon Hewett and other reporters. “I remember.”


Developers will tackle the extensive makeover little by little, with the first phase will costing an estimated $16 million.

“Once this building has been converted we will approach the next one. Once the second has been converted, we will approach the third and the forth,” Palazuelo said.

Renovating the entire 40-acre (3.5 million-square-foot) site is expected to take up to 15 years at a cost of $500 million.

The Packard Automotive Co. plant, built along East Grand Boulevard in 1903, has not been used for car production since it became obsolete in the 1950s. As the years passed, the property increasingly became the target of arsonists, thieves, metal scrappers, urban explorers and graffiti artists.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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