Offbeat
12:29 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

Packard Plant might have a new owner who wants to rehabilitate the crumbling structure

The skeletal remains of the rusting Packard plant in Detroit might soon have a new owner.

Built in 1911 by the legendary architect Albert Kahn, the factory produced luxurious automobiles throughout the early 1900s. It has since fallen into ruin, becoming a mecca for urban explorers and metal scrappers.

Although there have been previous talks and plans proposed for the plant (from Phil Cooley to the current owner) the newest has been spearheaded by Bill Hults, a developer from Evanston, Ill.

According to Christine Macdonald at the Detroit News, Hults wants to rehabilitate the deteriorating structure and save as many of the buildings as possible. Nearby, he wants to build multi-family housing and envisions turning the area into a mixed-use development with businesses, shops, and restaurants.

Skeptics might think the Packard Plant is beyond repair, but Hults believes otherwise. He has retained the same architectural firm that built the original – Albert Kahn Associates – and they insist that the concrete “bones” of the building are still holding up.

The project would be expensive and long. One point of concern is Hults own financial history. Macdonald reports:

Hults has a low profile as a developer in the Chicago area and a string of unpaid debts. State and federal liens indicate he owes nearly $208,000 in back taxes. Hults disputed the figure, said the debt is closer to $50,000 and should be resolved soon.

In the early 2000s, he owned a company, Urban Homes Development Inc., that built about 30 housing units in Chicago using the same precast concrete system he hopes to bring to Detroit. The company collapsed prior to the 2008 market crash, leaving several debts to contractors, according to lawsuits in Chicago.

However, for this project Hults has lots of support. Again, Macdonald reports:

Hults said he’s backed by local and out-of-state investors he can’t yet disclose. He said they’ll emerge once the project develops and include a humanitarian group that wants to spend at least $85 million on veteran and senior housing near the area.

The company, Bioresource, bought the plant in 1987, but has had a history of not paying taxes on the property. The Detroit Free Press has a history of the Packard Plant here.

Although almost every building in the complex is now abandoned, Allan Hill rents one of the remaining buildings that is structurally sound. Check out the video below to see an interview with him.

HILL from thismustbetheplace on Vimeo.

-Julia Field, Michigan Radio Newsroom