The Packard Motor Company buildings in Detroit were abandoned in 1958, when Packard went out of business. In the decades since then, the buildings on the colossal 40-acre site have been left vacant and have fallen into increasing disrepair, becoming a kind of iconic reminder of how far the Motor City has fallen from its past glory days. If you’ve visited Detroit, as we did when Russell lived there, you may have even driven past the Packard buildings and other derelict Detroit buildings, marveled at the tangible decay, and shaken your head at the waste of all of the effort and assets that went into constructing those buildings that are now crumbling into dust.
Now Detroit has finally begun process of demolishing the Packard buildings, as part of an effort to rid the city of what the linked article aptly describes as “ruin porn”–the many abandoned, deteriorating buildings in the area that show how a once-mighty city was brought to its knees. But as with anything in Detroit, it has been a difficult process. A Peruvian developer bought the 3.5 million square foot site for $405,000 in 2013 but didn’t live up to promises to develop it; more recently, he’s ignored court orders to demolish the buildings due to obvious safety concerns. As a result, the city has begun the demolition itself and plans to present the bill for the work to the developer.
Detroit’s mayor says that at least part of the Packard site will be used for future development. But even if development doesn’t happen for years, demolishing the Packard buildings is a big step in the right direction for Detroit, in my view. If, like me, you think there is merit to the “broken windows” theory, which posits that seeing unrepaired broken windows sends a strong message of lawlessness and societal decay, the Packard plants have been broken windows writ large for too long, sending a dispiriting message to the people of the Motor City. I think removing this old eyesore will help Detroit to move forward.