Investor who wanted Packard Plant scraps buildings, late on taxes

Firefighters extinguish fire started by scrappers.
Firefighters extinguish a fire started by scrappers at one of Hults’ buildings.
Bill Hults
Bill Hults

Clarification: Bill Hults says the transformer his crew was trying to remove from a roof was not attached to a live wire. Hults now says he is appealing his taxes “due to the vacant nature of the properties.”

When Chicago-area investor Bill Hults was in line to buy the abandoned Packard Plant in October, he quietly purchased 17 nearby properties in Wayne County’s tax-foreclosure auction.

Now he is illegally scavenging one of his largest commercial buildings, and he owes more than $29,000 in delinquent taxes and fines for the remaining properties he purchased, a Motor City Muckraker investigation has found.

When one of our photographers approached the scrappers to inquire about the illegal operation, they tried to run him over with a truck. They also chased away a reporter and nearby resident.

Hults, who moved into a home in the suburbs, hasn’t returned our calls for comment.

Police responded to just one of our four calls in the past month and even spotted scrappers on the roof trying to use a torch to remove a transformer from the roof. When police left, scrappers continued tearing apart the building.

Police speak with Bill Hults at 6431 E. Palmer.
Police speak with Bill Hults at 6431 E. Palmer.

Without police to worry about, the scrappers brought in a hydraulic lift with torches. They’ve been so careless that the fire department was called at least twice in the past two weeks to extinguish an unattended fire.

At one point, the scavengers removed so much scrap metal that they needed a U-Haul and semi-truck to haul it off.

U-Haul takes away scrap.
U-Haul collects scrap. License plate #AE-91403

When told about the scrapping Monday, Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration pledged swift action.

“Building and Safety will be sending an inspector over to the property,” mayoral spokeswoman Linda Vinyard said. “If in fact he is scraping at the level in which you describe, he would be in violation of city ordinances.”

Hults’ actions raise questions about his intentions with the Packard, which he had the opportunity to buy for $2 million in November as the second-highest bidder after the winning bidder bailed out.

But Hults never produced the money, so the third-highest bidder, Peru-based developer Fernando Palazuelo, bought the sprawling Packard for $405,000.

Packard plant
Packard plant

But that hasn’t stopped Hults from trying to buy the Packard Plant from Palazuelo for $5.6 million.

“I told him, ‘Thank you, but I am not interested,'” Palazuelo told me, saying he still has big plans to redevelop the 40-acre plant. “We want to do something very real with this site.”

According to county records, Hults hasn’t paid a penny of property taxes. He’s also done nothing to clean up his properties, many of which are homes.

Most of those houses are open to trespass, and the yards are strewn with garbage.

Hults left his homes in squalor.
Hults left his homes, like this one on E. Grand Blvd., in squalor.

“It’s disgusting,” neighbor Ron Mitchell told me. “Why would you buy houses to let them rot? People live here.”

6 p.m. update: Mayoral spokesman John Roach said he would provide an update Wednesday.

What kind of action do you think the city should take?

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.

  • AlbPerez

    How does a guy “illegally” scavenge his own property? If he owns it, can’t he do what he wants with it?

    • Bill

      Thats the point. You can not scrap your own building. Scrap refers to stealing from someone else that owns the building. Very difficult to steal from your self. Instead of using an inflamatory terms like scrap try using rehab which is what you do to a building while you return it to useful life

  • Sky J Logan

    You tell it Steve.

  • Gormenghast7

    Would it be so hard to have someone with an eighth grade reading level take 5 minutes to edit your pieces before you publish them?

  • 1Joshua

    I think the city should invade Canada where the middle class is rich. Of course, Detroit will lose the invasion. But then the city could beg for foreign aid as a defeated region. After all, Obama won’t help.

  • nolimitdetroiter

    CHARLIE BECKHAM, convicted felon, is in charge of the blight program. I can just picture this Hults guy handing ol charlie an envelope ;with some benjamins and charlie saying “it’s all good, the fix is in”.
    Why else did they get rid of Pulte. THIS, is where the big money is now. Blight is going to pay big time.

    • Bill

      Your lack of understanding of who Mr. Beckham is only second to your ignorance. He has been an active and important member of the past 4 administrations making significant contributions to the City of Detroit.

      Please conduct at least of minimum of due diligence before you make a slanderous comment.

  • blkmn4evr

    Hults should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m sure a well read prosecutor can find something to send this guy to jail for. They need to make an example of some folks that are profiting off of Detroit’s misery. I equate it with “war profiteering”. Detroit has enough problems without opportunist coming from Chicago, the suburbs or anywhere else just to simply be a vulture picking over a carcass which isn’t a carcass…the city is still alive.

  • Willy

    My only question is this: what is The Hults new address in the suburbs?

    • Bill

      Willy
      Tell me your address and we can visit
      Bill

  • Stephan Palazzolo

    No economic activity is viable other than scrapping.

    • Willy

      …Contrary to the thousands of businesses in the city. Stay in the suburbs, troll.

  • Randy Burbach

    So he is Chi town’s Maroun?

  • This looks more like a demolition on the cheap and without the required permits and oversight. Not that it shouldn’t be demolished, the satellite view of the roof shows a lot of what appear to be holes.

    A bigger concern with the way this place is being dismantled is what business the company that once occupied it was in. The company was Nicro Finishing, a metal and chrome plating operation. Platers use a lot of heavy metals and years ago were notorious for polluting through improper disposal, and accidental spills, of materials.

  • Billy Blake

    Look how fast the Joe Louis Arena is being demolish.

  • bebow

    The city should immediately demolish slumlord shacks when property taxes are delinquent, charge the offenders for the demolitions, add fees for administrative costs and irritation, and pursue recovery like vicious pitbulls running loose in the neighborhoods. Stop letting slumlords, individuals and LLCs, blight the neighborhoods for years and then skip off to foreclosure. Include banks in the enforcement plan. While the city gets busy, it might demolish the blighted shacks it owns, too. How many of these shacks am I expected to maintain and police while the responsible parties go sideways and the slumlords’ tenants tear up and trash right behind me?