Will Packard Plant see new life? Plans comes down to wire

PackardThe fate of the Packard Plant, a sprawling symbol of Detroit’s industrial decline, may soon be decided after decades of sitting predominately empty on the east side.

An Illinois-based developer, William Hults, wants to transform the 35 acres of crumbling concrete and twisted metal into housing, restaurants, retail space, offices and a hotel. He plans to pay nearly $1 million, which is how much is owed in back taxes by the previous owner.

It’s anything but a done deal. Hults, who has never been involved in a project of this magnitude, hasn’t secured financing yet, nor has he met with the appropriate city officials.
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packard_7901And time is running out. If Hults doesn’t wrap up the deal soon, the Packard Plant, which has become a lawless wasteland for thieves, vandals and arsonists, will be auctioned off with more than 20,000 other properties in the Wayne County treasurer’s tax foreclosure auction in September or October, county officials said this morning.

The Packard was the largest manufacturing plant in the world when it opened at the turn of the 20th century. But huge 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 owner, Dominic Cristini, stopped paying property taxes years ago and is no longer mulling plans to demolish the 3.5 million-square-foot plant, which officials said could cost as much as $15 million.
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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.