Left to the elements, Packard plant bridge collapses in Detroit

Left to the elements, Packard plant bridge collapses in Detroit

The once-proud facility has begun to crumble

Once a symbol of a prosperous and manufacturing-rich city, Detroit’s Packard plant has been left to decay for decades. On Wednesday, the elements took their toll and the Packard plant’s skyway bridge collapsed onto the city street.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the collapse, according to information from Historic Detroit’s Twitter account. The bridge previously spanned East Grand Boulevard and connected the massive production facility’s north and south buildings. In recent years, the deteriorating exterior was wrapped to appear as it stood during Packard’s early-to-mid-20th century boom. All of it came crashing down this week.

The production facility opened its doors in 1911 and was crowned an engineering marvel that churned out some of the most luxurious and successful American automobiles. By the 1950s, Packard management’s decisions had caught up with it. One crucial error was a buyout of Studebaker in 1954, which turned out to have production issues at its South Bend, Indiana plant. Studebaker pulled down Packard, which ended car production in 1959, while Studebaker hung on until 1966. Tight competition from Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler squeezed Packard while other independent automakers formed American Motors Corporation.

This was a company that outsold Cadillac for decades but whose remains have been left to ruins for the past 60 years.

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The production sites have long been abandoned, though some areas of the site were used as warehouses until 2010. The last news surrounding the facility was in 2014 when a Peruvian property developer, Fernando Palazuelo, purchased the property for $405,000. Cleanup has been ongoing, but no concrete plans have risen from the ashes that once was the Packard plant. The developer’s plans include a historic restoration and opportunities for new commerce and jobs in the area.

At a minimum, Palazuelo has a track record for slowly but surely restoring long-abandoned sites in Peru, Nepal, and Spain. We’ll see if he can do anything with this once-great site.

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