Chicago investor closer to buying vacant Packard Plant

PackardIt seemed like a pipe dream just a few weeks ago – transforming the sprawling, decaying Packard Plant into a vibrant hub for housing, businesses and restaurants.

But Chicago investor Bill Hults, who has never been involved in a project of this magnitude, has insured the Packard so he can scour the 35-acre ruins in preparation for a $1 million purchase, Wayne County confirmed this morning. The next step requires Hults to put $1 million in an escrow account to remove the Packard from the county auction.

The Packard was foreclosed because of delinquent taxes and now rests in the hands of Wayne County. If Hults doesn’t set up an escrow, the Packard Plant, will be up for bid with nearly 20,000 other properties in the county treasurer’s tax foreclosure auction in September or October, county officials said this morning. packard_2986

The Packard was the largest manufacturing plant in the world when it opened at the turn of the 20th century. But steep industrial declines beginning in the 1950s hit the Motor City hard, forcing the closure of many plants, including the Packard.

More than a half century later, scrappers are tearing apart the building in search of metal. Stolen boats, cars and mountains of trash are discarded throughout and around the plant.

The former owner, Dominic Cristini, stopped paying property taxes years ago and abandoned plans to demolish the 3.5 million-square-foot plant, which officials said could cost as much as $15 million.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.