DETROIT — A judge has ordered the demolition of the deteriorating Packard auto plant in Detroit, ruling it has become a public nuisance.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan wrote in an order that the factory’s Peruvian owner, Fernando Palazuelo, and his company, Arte Express Detroit, must remove all trash and debris from the sprawling site and demolish all buildings and structures on the property, which covers several blocks on Detroit’s east side.
The March 31 order said the more than 30 plots owned by Palazuelo “constitute a public nuisance that interferes with the common rights enjoyed by the general public by significantly threatening the health, safety and welfare of the public. “.
Demolition and reduction work must begin within 42 days of Sullivan’s order, with cleanup completed within 90 days. If the work is not completed, the city is authorized to have it carried out, with Palazuelo possibly liable for the costs, which are expected to be in the millions of dollars.
The order comes after Palazuelo failed to show up for a trial on March 24.
“Judge Sullivan’s order brings us closer to finally resolving the dangerous and dilapidated parts of the Packard plant that Mr. Palazuelo has done virtually nothing with since he bought it in 2013, other than amassing more than “a million dollars in unpaid drainage bills, property taxes and scourge tickets,” Detroit Acting Corporation attorney Chuck Raimi said last week.
Raimi said Palazuelo has until April 21 to obtain demolition permits for its parts of the plant.
“If he fails to meet this requirement, the city will consider its options, which include doing the demolition itself and suing both his company and him personally for the considerable cost of this work,” Raimi said. “The city fully intends to rid the community of this massive devastated complex once and for all.”
Built in the early 1900s, the Packard factory was designed by Albert Kahn. The company became a dominant luxury automobile manufacturer in the United States in the late 1920s, and by the 1940s had 36,000 employees.
The last automobile was manufactured there in the mid to late 1950s, and the various buildings were eventually used as warehouses, other manufacturing projects, and small industrial projects.
The city reclaimed most of the Packard property in 1994 after the previous owners failed to repay taxes. Over time, the site became one of the most degraded areas in the city, as tires, thousands of shoes, old televisions and other trash were illegally dumped in and around the various buildings.
Palazuelo bought the Packard property in 2013 for $405,000 at a Wayne County tax foreclosure auction. He then said his plans were to restore and reopen the 40-acre complex as a mixed-use commercial, residential and cultural development.
Palazuelo told The Associated Press in 2014 that the total redevelopment cost is expected to be close to $350 million. He would be paid with the rent he receives from his projects in Lima, he said.
But he was unable to raise the necessary funding for the project and in 2016 asked the city council to approve a 12-year tax freeze.
The AP emailed a Palazuelo representative last week seeking the developer’s comments. A voicemail and email were also left for an attorney listed on Sullivan’s order as representing Palazuelo.