Sure, it’s only canvas, but we like it. Here’s an encouraging update on the renovation of a Detroit landmark, the old Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard.
When international real estate developer Fernando Palazuelo purchased the Detroit Packard plant in December of 2013, we were careful not to get our hopes up. On the matter of grandiose plans for the old ruin, we’ve heard it all before—many times before. However, we are happy to report that we can now see clear progress.
There are security guards on full-time watch, and the vast piles of trash and rubble are being cleaned up—this latter step alone makes a huge difference. Meanwhile, the familiar overpass over East Grand Boulevard, one of the most recognizable features of the historic complex, has been given an attractive facelift. It may be only a painted canvas cover for now, duplicated from historic photographs, but it goes a long way in improving the plant’s appearance to daily commuters on East Grand Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in old Central Detroit.
This is how the overpass looked in recent years: windows broken, covered in graffiti, a horrible eyesore. The trompe l’oeil canvas cover is a welcome improvement, and developer Palazuelo says the overpass will be totally renovated for real over the next 12 months. In the meantime, here’s some historical background on the overpass, a signature feature of the giant Packard complex.
Shown here under construction (looking east) in April of 1939, the overpass is actually one of the newer portions of the Packard complex, parts of which date all the way back to 1903.
As illustrated in this interior view, the bridge was originally designed to house a conveyer line that carried trimmed and finished bodies over the boulevard, from the Packard body shop on the south side of East Grand to the final assembly lines on the north side of the street. The Packard plant was well over a half-mile long in its heyday and included a number of bridges and conveyors over neighborhood streets. The East Grand Boulevard overpass was simply the most visible.
A Detroit landmark in the 1950s when this photo was taken, the Packard bridge featured a clock and a Packard grille shell ornament on both the east and west faces. The temporary canvas cover—like a giant wrap, if you will—was produced using historic period photographs like this one. We don’t know what the future holds for the Packard plant, but we continue to hope for the best.
Note: From fall of 2013, here’s a very accurate and informative look at the Packard plant before the cleanup began, via drone cam. It’s the best thing we’ve seen yet for illustrating the plant’s size and condition.