“Change is good”
“Time brings about a change”
“Nothing lasts forever”
These are the quotes we use to soothe ourselves as we clinch our fists and tighten our shoulders to pass through the canals of change. We all know that change must come; it rests in the back of our minds. Yet, we grow complacent and comfortable with the way things are because they are familiar. Many times, it is not the result of change, but the shock of change that we have a hard time with.
Change came across my desk this week when I learned that the old Packard plant, which had been desolate for years, is now up for auction. I’ve seen the plant many times and was in awe of its size and resilient construction. I figuratively removed my hat in honor of the wonderful people that worked there and the beautiful vehicles that were produced: The 120, The Super 8, The Caribbean, the Panther and the list goes on. I marveled at the fact that time had reduced a once vibrant factory to post-apocalyptic conditions.
The factory recalls Packard’s 1903 move from its birthplace of Warren, Ohio, to Detroit. Designed by Albert Kahn, whose works include Ford’s Rouge plant and GM’s headquarters (now Cadillac Place), the East Grand Avenue plant was one of this country’s earliest examples of reinforced concrete construction, and was once admired as one of the most advanced factories in the world. The purchase of Studebaker by Packard in 1954 and creation of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation was the beginning of the end. Four years later, the company and the factory came to a halt.
Although the plant portion of the property fell into disrepair, its famous facade sold at auction six years ago for $161,000 and had paying tenants in it until 2010.
My heart is heavy. Certainly, its present condition was breath-taking, not for its beauty, but its steadfastness. A modern structure couldn’t stand the test of time like this one. I am burdened because I just know that most of the structure is beyond repair and the part that is will probably be torn down and turned into some condo complex, industrial or shopping district. It certainly won’t be snagged by a car guy like Saleen or innovator like Tesla.
We will pass by years from now and there will be little or no trace of automotive history. Maybe they will have a section called “Packard Park” or name it “The Macauley Complex”, but I doubt it.
A 3.5-million-square-foot complex stands on East Grand Boulevard. A buyer will demolish it, redevelop it and cover almost a million dollars in back taxes. The once-proud factory now stands in ruins as Detroit’s answer to Rome’s Coliseum – but not for much longer. It will no doubt end up in far better condition than it is in now, which will be a good thing for Wayne County and the city of Detroit.
“Change is good” it’s just the suddenness of it that causes us to grasp our memories and hold our history a little tighter. The Packard Plant’s upcoming auction is one of those occurrences that allows us to see the changes in automotive history and appreciate what it took to bring us this far…….and reminisce on the good ‘ol days.