Abandoned Packard Plant sells for surprising $6 million

PackardThe sprawling ruins of the Packard Plant sold today for more than $6 million to a Texas woman, raising some hope that a developer will remove the massive eyesore on Detroit’s east side.

The symbol of Detroit’s industrial decline attracted 111 bids from around the world at the close of the Wayne County tax foreclosure auction.

City and county officials expressed surprise that the 3.5 million square feet of ruins would fetch such a high price, considering that it will cost an estimated $15 million to demolish the plant and more to insure it and pay the property taxes.

The Packard, after all, didn’t sell during the first round of the auction in September, when an investor could have bought it for $1 million.

Not much is known about the winning bidder, Jill Van Horn of Ennis, Texas, or her intentions with the property, county officials said.

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Bidding was hovering at $600,000 with just 45 minutes before the 4:45 p.m. deadline. But bidding surged to the surprise of many.

The cash-strapped city of Detroit wants nothing to do with the Packard, which was the largest manufacturing plant in the world when it opened at the turn of the 20th century.

The past owner, Dominic Cristini, told the city to “Kiss my ass” and let the buildings languish, failing to pay the property taxes.

The plant fell victim to the industrial declines of the 1950s, when most of the buildings closed.

More than a half century later, scrappers are tearing apart the building in search of metal. Discarded boats, cars and tires are scattered throughout the plant, and arsonists often set the buildings ablaze.

Over the past two years, police have seen an increase in muggings – some of them brutal – inside the cavernous plant.

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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.