New Packard Plant owner cracks down on trespassers by stranding them

A bus full of tourists last year. (By Steve Neavling)

The abandoned Packard Plant already has its inherent risks – robberies, assaults and vandalized cars.

Now there’s a new danger: Park your ride on the sprawling auto plant and you may find it on the back of a tow truck, leaving you without wheels in a dicey neighborhood.
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It’s part of an aggressive approach by the new owner, Peru-based developer Fernando Palazuelo, to keep out trespassers who are drawn to the 35-acre ruins that have come to symbolize Detroit’s industrial decline.

“We are working closely with the city and other neighboring property owners to clean up and improve the area, and this should serve as a clear warning that trespassers will no longer be tolerated,” Palazuelo told us.

The Packard Plant used to get a lot of visitors.
The Packard Plant used to get a lot of visitors.

Several cars have already been towed at the behest of Palazuelo’s security.

Over the past decade, the iconic ruins increasingly have become a magnet for adventurers, historians and photographers from around the globe, especially in the wake of the city’s well-publicized bankruptcy. Some have been brutally attacked and robbed; others were carjacked.

On Christmas eve, urban explorers found a dead body.

Scrappers at the Packard Plant

Not long after Palazuelo bought the property in December, his security chased away metal scrappers, who had grown bolder and more reckless, causing fires, tearing down buildings and trying to topple the enormous water tower.

Palazuelo hopes to transform the 111-year-old Packard into a mixed-use site over the next 10 to 15 years.

But there’s still has one nuisance he can’t shake – a man masquerading as a parking attendant. Johnny Revel has been offering what he says are authorized tours of the Packard Plant for money. Palazuelo has ordered Revel to leave the property months ago but he has refused.

“Johnny has nothing to do with us, but I see that he is still trying to make some money of the opportunity,” Palazuelo said.

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.

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