In my previous blog I discussed the abandoned buildings of Detroit along with the renewal of the city and the great signs of recovery in certain areas. Of the abandoned sites dotted all around the city the most colossal one is the old Packard Automotive Plant. This is a place you have to see to believe!
This was once a state of the art, 3,500,000-square-foot (325,000 m2) factory that produced luxury Packard vehicles. It was a place that helped build the Detroit Motor City legend. The factory commenced operations in 1903 but by 1958 it was closed.
What happened to Packard, a once successful car company? During World War Two the company built aircraft engines for the war effort. At the end of the war the company was in a good financial position and switched back to car production. In 1954 Packard merged with Studebaker to form the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.
By the late 1950’s the demand for large luxury vehicles was declining and the Packard brand was struggling to compete with other major car manufacturers like Ford, GM and Chevrolet who were making smaller more economical cars and sales were dropping. Packard made mid range vehicles but they compromised in design and were not as modern in styling as their competitors. Sales continued to struggle.
By 1958 the Packard Automotive Plant was no longer sustainable and hence it’s closure. By 1959 no further cars produced by Studebaker-Packard Corporation in their other factories were called a Packard. By 1962 Packard was also removed from the corporation name along with a real piece of Detroit motoring history.
Despite the factory closure in regards to car manufacturing, the Packard Automotive Plant site remained in use by various companies and also for storage until the late 1990’s (in 1958 parts of the site were sold, others were leased out). By the early 2000’s a few companies still operated in the outer buildings. Today the place has been stripped and laid to waste. It is sad to see but also a fascinating place to visit from an urban explorers point of view. You have to take care wandering about the plant though as there as parts of the floor and roof that have caved in and stairwell rails are long gone.
Wandering the old buildings you can not help but be overwhelmed by the scale and the destruction of the site, especially when you walk down the long halls that were once the centre of car construction. It’s hard to imagine how it got to this stage. Neglect, vandalism, people taking parts of the buildings for their own use and just the passage of time have really taken a toll on the old plant.
The days of urban exploring the automotive plant may well be over very soon though. The site was purchased on December 12th, 2013 by a Brazilian developer Fernando Palazuelo for $405,000. Over the next 10 to 15 years he plans to turn the site into a multipurpose development for residential, commercial (offices, retail, light industry), entertainment and arts use. It will be interesting to see what happens there. In the meantime he has one huge environmental cleanup to do!