Bold scrappers cause partial collapse at Packard Plant

Packard collapse_6051A portion of the abandoned Packard Plant collapsed this weekend, scattering large chunks of concrete across a road and momentarily burying a metal thief in debris.

“There was someone up there screaming, like they were stuck,” a neighbor, Ronnie Bowlson, told me.

But that didn’t deter the scrappers from returning with a pickup truck and finishing the job soon after firefighters spent 90 minutes fruitlessly searching for one of the thieves, who was pulled out by a partner Saturday afternoon.

Even as city workers cordoned off Concord at East Grand Boulevard, the scrappers pulled heavy chunks of metal from the top of the five-story building and tossed them to the ground below. From there, the four scrappers deposited their tiny fortunes into the bed of a pickup.

A few buildings away, a fire burned after someone set tires, wooden pallets and trash blaze.

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill scrappers. The same group has been demolishing the plant slowly but aggressively over the past two years, using backhoes, high-powered saws and welding equipment. They’ve demolished entire buildings and are removing the fifth floor of a building that is longer than a football field.

Once they’re finished, they take the scrap metal to Strong Steel Products, a scrapyard that is less than a mile away.

The city has done nothing to stop the scrapping, which is endangering motorists and residents.

The fate of the Packard, which has largely been vacant since the industrial decline of the 1950s, hangs in the balance. Wayne County seized the property earlier this year because the owner was nearly $1 million delinquent on taxes.

After Wayne County seized the former auto plant for nearly $1 million in unpaid taxes earlier this year, the 1.5-million-square-foot Packard is up for auction. The county already received the minimum $21,000 bid. 

The Packard includes 42 parcels, most of them blanketed with crumbling concrete buildings, twisted metal and broken glass.

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Scrappers removed the entire fifth floor of this sprawling Packard building.

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The top floor is caving in, spilling concrete onto the street.

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Gaping hole on the fifth floor.

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There’s little holding up this wall.

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The ceiling is falling on the fourth floor.

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The side of the building.

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Scrappers removing cheap metal from the fifth floor.

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Another scrapper.

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The remnants of a car on the fifth floor.

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Scrappers pack up their metal.

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After a long day of work.

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Chunks of concrete fell from the fifth floor onto Concord.

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The remaining walls are collapsing onto the street.

Other stories about the Packard Plant


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.