Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 18, 2013

Developer eyes redeveloping Packard site

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — DETROIT (AP) — Developers have set their sights on a deteriorating former Detroit car plant that’s become better known for malicious destruction and urban decay.

Evanston, Ill.-based developer Bill Hults is leading a group of investors who want to redevelop the 3.5 million-square-foot former Packard plant, The Detroit News said Wednesday. They hope to convert the 110-year-old facility into a commercial, housing and entertainment complex.

Hults said he’s been talking for months with Wayne County officials about buying the plant out of foreclosure for its nearly $1 million unpaid tax bill. County Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski confirmed the conversations, but cautions that the property presents many challenges.

“We want to make sure the neglect of this property does not continue,” said Szymanski. A sale could be completed within several weeks and the agreement will require the buyers to secure the building within six months or demolish it, he said.

“If this comes to fruition, it will be a home run. I have a difficult time imagining any property that presents the issues that the Packard plant does,” Szymanski said.

The plant was built in 1903, and the last Packard automobile was built there in the mid-1950s. Other smaller industrial businesses have used the facility since. As the years passed, the plant increasingly became the target of thieves, metal scrappers, urban explorers and graffiti artists.

“Packard is a global brand and has a global identity,” Hults said. “I couldn’t spend enough money to have that built-in identity.”

Hults, who has dubbed the redevelopment project the Villages of Packard, has retained Albert Kahn Associates, the architectural firm that built the complex.