Metro Detroiters weigh in on what should be done with the Packard Plant land

Posted at 5:32 AM, Jun 03, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Here on Detroit’s east side, it is hard to miss one of the city's biggest symbols of blight, the Packard plant. And so, after being vacant for decades, it is being torn down. Now, the city hopes to have a new automotive-related plant built on the site, but I’m going to ask folks what they would like to see this come up on 80 acres of land.

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Ron Watts, Tour Guide

Ron Watts, tour guide: "Sports Complex, entertainment complex. I mean as long as they do something with it...I would prefer it that benefits the community."

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Chris Burns, Property Manager at Packard Plant

Christopher Burns, Property manager at Packard Plant: "We would like to see more residential properties, more retail...If they can use for a mixed used site, then I'm all for that."

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John Lauter

John Lauter, used space previously for storage space: "It needs to be industrial. I think if you dug, 10 feet in the ground, you would still find chemicals, we may as well just keep that going."

These three Detroiters have a unique connection with the Packard plant. On his tours, Ron Watts always makes a stop at this facility.

"You know I get people from all over the world to take my tour," Watts said. "And I like to show you the whole specturm of Detroit, from the beginning to the end, and why the way it is."

"So what do you tell people when you bring people out here and show them the packard plant?" I asked.

"It was built by Albert Kahn. Architect of Detroit. Built 400 buildings here," Watts told me. "This was the blueprint of most factories in the US."

John Lauter pulled out his phone to show me pictures of the storage space he was renting out here up until 25 years ago.

"We were back in this building jetting out in the far this," Lauter said. "I started keeping my cars here in 1985 and then we were all evicted by the city in 1999."

Christopher Burns worked as a property manager at the plant for the last ten years.

"Watch property, kicking people out, making sure no one gets hurt on the property. cleaning," Burns said on his responsibilities at the plate.''

"So now that its being demolished how do you feel?" I asked the guys.

"I'm kind of sad that most of its being torn down," Burns said. "But I'm glad that Mayor is keeping building 13 and 27."

"If this can be preserved as the office for many businesses, that would be wonderful too," Lauter said. "If they get into this and say nah this too far gone and this has to be gone.. I wouldn't shed a tear."

"It's an eyesore," Watts said. "Yeah, it's a historic building. But you got to do something with this. I was born on the east side, and as far as you can see a lot of vacant lots and burned-down homes, and when you go downtown and, its flourishing."

"One thing about this area is it has nowhere to go but up," Lauter said. "And It's not going to go up until all that goes away."

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