According to recent reports from Crain's Detroit Business, a leading news site dedicated to Southeast Michigan and its struggling financial sector, the largest abandoned automotive plant in the world is hitting the auction block this September in efforts from city officials to spur redevelopment of the blighted portion of downtown.
It's no secret that the city of Detroit has fallen on hard times, as businesses throughout the community have fled the once-bustling metropolis and population figures continue to dwindle. The Packard Factory, located in the heart of the city, is perhaps the perfect symbol of the town's fall from grace, as it once housed the operations of the country's premier automotive marquee that ultimately had to close up shop.
Packard Motors was founded at the turn of the 20th century in Ohio in an attempt by the ambitious Packard brothers to create the best horseless carriage on the road. They easily accomplished this feat with their first models. These cars initially all featured only single cylinder engines, as they were limited by technology of the era, but the Packards were innovators, and their lineup would go on to include numerous automotive industry firsts.
At the time of Packard's introduction onto the market in 1899, these were among the most expensive cars on the road. While you could get a top-tier Oldsmobile for a little more than $1,000, the very first Packards had a price tag of more than double that, but the public was willing to pony up the dough. As a result, this became one of the most popular car companies in America seemingly overnight.
When they moved into their 40-acre factory in Detroit back in 1903, it was by far the most technologically advanced facility for manufacturing in the world. The scope of the Packard factory was dizzying even by today's standards, as the facility was roughly 3.5 million square feet and featured not just equipment to build cars but also machinery for other industries.
Among the benchmarks set by the company in the subsequent years following the brand's arrival to the motor city were the development of the modern steering wheel, the first 12 cylinder engine and even the first air conditioning to be found in an American car. Things were good for the company throughout the first half of the 20th century, but the sun would quickly set on the Packard brand as competition from larger makers – who were developing equally good cars at significantly lower prices – would prove to fierce.
Packard eventually shuttered its doors in 1958 after failing to recover to hits the brand took following World War II. Although the Packard factory has had several other tenants after the company closed up shop, several fires have plagued the site and for much of the past 50 years it has sat unoccupied – a reminder of Detroit's past greatness and a sign of the trying times the city is now dealing with.
The site is going to auction with a starting bid of $975,000, which would seem like a steal for 40 acres of property, but given the area's low property value, many are apprehensive about the facility even fetching that much this September. Should the first auction prove to be a bust, the city plans to subdivide the property and sell off parcels individually for bargain-basement prices.
Do you have some cash you'd mind dropping on an abandoned factory that serves as a testament to one of the great classic American car manufacturers of the past century? Leave your thoughts below:
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