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Tue Oct 29, 2013, 01:39 PM

Packard factory in Detroit could be home to modular home builder

Detroit's iconic Packard plant could soon be back in business

Paul A. Eisenstein , The Detroit Bureau

As Detroit hopes to bounce back after filing for bankruptcy, two iconic factories that helped the Motor City become America's 20th century industrial hub could gain a new life in the near future.

During World War Two they both anchored the mighty military production base that came to be known as the “Arsenal of Democracy,” but today, the old Packard and Willow Run assembly plants are symbols of Detroit's decay and of the city's once-formidable manufacturing base.

At their peak, factories in Detroit and its suburbs produced millions of cars annually. That manufacturing prowess was central to the U.S. military effort during both World Wars, but many of the factories that rolled out bombers, tanks and other war machinery are long gone and of the few that remain, most are in fading condition.


So, when an auction was held for the remains this month it was anything but certain an acceptable bid would come along. But authorities received an unexpected offer of $6,038,000 – and from a particularly surprising source: a Texas family doctor who reportedly will team up with “partners and investors from Detroit, Wall Street and international firms,” to turn the decrepit hulk into an “economic engine” that could become part of what many hope is the nascent revival of Detroit.


According to Dave Marshall, a spokesman for the investment group, the goal is to produce modular homes at the old Packard factory, “(which) will be constructed on the site and shipped all over the world.” Marshall’s statement promised that, “Building supplies will also be made here.”

The sprawling, 35-acre complex consists of 40 individual buildings, most in serious need of repair. Simply cleaning up the site will be costly, observers caution. That has led to repeated failure as one rescue plan after another has collapsed, including a proposal to turn the facility into a modern mixed-use complex of shops, restaurants and other venues.


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