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Any Day Now: Three Detroit Developments in Limbo

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Photo by <a href="http://www.michelleandchrisgerard.com/"> Michelle and Chris Gerard</a><br>
Photo by Michelle and Chris Gerard

While this summer saw some impressive development deals, including the sale of the Fisher Building to New York City developers, the city remains plagued with projects, almost like the owners of a massive money-pit of a house. While homeowners might need new plumbing or a roof, Detroit has myriad properties, some quite iconic, in need of massive restorations, remediation and redevelopment. Michigan Central Station is seen by many as a site that only a very rich, very generous developer might take on, given that there isn't likely to be any return on investment apart from the admiration of Detroiters (at least the ones who don't dislike any changes). While we watch new windows go into that long-shuttered property, why not consider other Detroit sites in need of attention?
1) Uniroyal Site

This 28-acre area, former site of the Uniroyal tire plant from 1941-1978, lies along the Detroit River, making it seem like a developer's, er, river-dampened dream. Despite the location, the site hasn't had any real purpose in over 30 years. According to Crain's Detroit Business, in 2014, DTE Energy, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Michelin ponied up a whopping $35 million to complete state-ordered remediation of the site, removing 700,000 tons of dirt and debris. Part of the rendition included construction of a 740-foot, 115 feet deep seawall. Apart from these attempts at simply maintaining the site, Uniroyal has remained unused for more than 30 years. In 1985, Donald Trump flew over it in one of his many jets and decided he wasn't up to the challenge of redeveloping the site. Today, development rests in the hands of a company partially owned by Jerome Bettis. Ideas for the spot include developing it into upwards of 2000 residences, with supporting retail and office spaces. Another possibility involves linking the land to the Detroit River Walk. Tick tock. We'll check back in 2045.

2) The Packard Plant

Photo of Packard Plant owner Fernando Palazuelo by Michelle and Chris Gerard

This place is the Moby Dick of all Detroit development parcels. Once the site of luxury auto making, the 3.5 million square foot East Grand Boulevard campus includes 47 buildings decaying across 40 acres of land on the east side. Largely abandoned since Packard's shuttering in 1958, today the site serves as the setting for a wide array of disaster porn, including last week's incident involving a live tiger and a weed whacker. Today, the site is owned by Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo, who bought it in 2013. This spring, Model D reported that Palazuelo had hired the architecture firm of Albert Kahn Associates (whose founder designed the original plant in 1903) and and general contractors O'Brien Construction to complete an extensive rehab on the plant's massive administrative building.

3) Fisher Body Plant 21

Located in the Piquette Avenue Historical District, Fisher Body 21 was of the 40 plants the Fisher family built in the early 20th century, The six-story Plant 21, like the Packard Plant, was designed by Albert Kahn and constructed in 1919. The building relied on new and revolutionary techniques of the era, including the use of reinforced concrete. The owners had an eye towards worker satisfaction, and included many floor-to-ceiling windows to let in light and views. Once a place where Detroit built bodies for Buicks and Cadillacs, the plant has been abandoned almost entirely since General Motors ceased production there in 1981.

The city owns the place now, having foreclosed over property taxes. The EPA did a massive remediation of the site, because sixty years of industrial use has steeped it in toxic chemicals and waste. The city wants $300K for the structure, and the area is a prime spot for development—that sweet spot by midtown and Wayne State. Last year, German developer Dimitri Hegemann visited Detroit and discussed his idea to turn the plant into "an artistic, cultural, and learning space" with Model D. So far, no plan has gone beyond the dream stage. Let's hope that changes before another thirty years go by.

·Windows at Michigan Central: Curbed's Exclusive Pictures [Curbed Detroit]
·Packard Plant Pretends to be Repaired [Curbed Detroit]
·Vision for Uniroyal site connects people, river [Crain's Detroit Business]
·Fisher Body Plant 21 [Detroit Urbex]
·Berliner Dimitri Hegemann to discuss plans for Fisher Body 21 [Model D]
· [Curbed Detroit]
Op-Ed: Exploring two abandoned buildings in Detroit [Digital Journal]
·Photographer has the Worst Idea for the Packard Plant [Curbed Detroit]
·Uniroyal Site [Detroit Riverfront Conservancy]
·Packard Plant developer outlines grand plans for Detroitt [Model D]

Michigan Central Station

2198 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216