Thursday, July 21, 2011

Packard Plant, Detroit, MI - 17th July

Packard Plant
Being many days behind in my blogging, and having limited internet access in my current location, I'll try to keep this post brief. On Sunday morning, with a busy day of building-hunting ahead, I borrowed a bike from the hostel after my two-wheeled successes in Boston. After some breakfast, and an hour or so in the Detroit Institute of Arts I made my way out into the suburbs of Detroit to find a building at the top of my Detroit hit-list - the Packard Plant.

Completed in 1911, this Kahn-designed building spans over 3.5 million square-feet and 40 acres of ground and was used as the main manufacturing and assembly plant for Packard Motors - a luxury, American car company.

According to the Detroit News, it was the first industrial building in Detroit to be constructed out of concrete, and almost all of it remains standing to this day despite being abandoned - and almost wholly unsecured - for over 63 years. Apparently some of its outbuildings have been in more recent use, but as of present the entire site has returned to abandonment.

Outbuilding, Packard Plant

It was impossible to cover the entirety of the site, and only some of the second floor was accessible from the part I explored. 
Ground floor of the manufacturing plant #1



The Packard Plant attracts numerous scavengers in search of metals, brick and woodwork they can strip from the building or extract from the debris that plagues the site and sell. Numerous vehicles lie strewn around the Plant.

Abandonment within Abandonment

Pick-up truck: from the outside courtyard looking in

However, cars were perhaps the most normal discoveries I made when exploring the vast Packard tomb.

Boat out of water

Whilst much of the interior of the plant has been demolished or removed, some rooms and offices remain.

Office, ground floor, Packard Plant

Office electrical cupboard

The Packard Plant highlights, like Michigan Central Station, the massive problem facing Detroit. With so much space simply lying empty, the question becomes what to do with it? - a question that applies both to the future and the present. The hard reality is that there is simply no current commercial demand for a 3.5 million square-foot factory space, but being privately owned the building continues to sit empty and disused. 

Detroit State Government is pushing for demolition of the Packard Plant as part of its attempts to reduce the size of the city, making it easier to police and maintain. The Packard Plant is just one side of the multi-faceted coin of the Detroit-problem, but its current state and its future is indicative of that very predicament.

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