The Packard Plant became one of the most tired images of Detroit’s decline, but long before that, it was a trailblazer that changed the way auto plants were built and produced more than 1.6 million cars.
The first Packard was completed Nov. 6, 1899, in Warren, Ohio. A group of investors convinced James Ward Packard to move his fledgling car company to Detroit. In early 1903, architect Albert Kahn was hired to design a factory on 40 acres along Grand Boulevard. For his 10th building in the complex, Kahn employed reinforced concrete. This was a game-changing first for plant construction and made him the auto industry’s go-to guy for factories.
The Packard Plant eventually grew to 80 some buildings spread across 80 acres. It continued making quality cars for decades, as well as engines for World War II, but ran into trouble when it bought the Studebaker Corp. in 1954. The merged company never turned a profit. The Detroit plant closed when the last true Packard was produced in 1956. The name itself was discontinued two years later.
Parts of the complex were later turned into the Motor City Industrial Park, but it was closed by the City in 1999. Scrappers then set to work, literally ripping the place apart, turning it into 3.5 million square feet of rubble and ruin.
Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo bought the plant in 2013 and has set out to save what he can, removing tons of debris as he attempts to rehabilitate the longtime eyesore.