DETROIT (WXYZ) - Next week, Bill Hults could become the owner of Detroit's storied Packard Plant. The Chicago investor plans to buy and redevelop the absolutely massive industrial wasteland on the city's east side.
Packard luxury automobiles were built on the forty-acre site until the late 1950s. In the years since, the factory complex, has become a playground for scrappers, graffiti artists and urban explorers.
The dilapidated plant is bounded by I-94 to its north and East Grand Boulevard to the south. It sits just east of Mt. Elliot.
Once an example of America's twentieth century industrial might, the giant area is now nothing but an eyesore--a symbol of Detroit's demise.
Today, Hults says—because of its history—the Packard plant represents an opportunity like no other.
"You look at this and it's just 3,500,000 square feet of … ugly. And we're going to take it and we're going to turn it into something very, very special," says Hults who met with the 7 Action News Detroit 2020 team today.
He says he got his first look at the property about two and a half years ago.
The developer says he expects to take control of the property next week by paying Wayne County nearly $1 million to cover its delinquent taxes.
"We won't have this opportunity again in our lifetimes. So this is very exciting to us," he says.
Hults is trying to complete the deal before Wayne County includes it in their auction of foreclosed properties on September 13. After that, he risks the chance that other investors could buy up parcels of the Packard Plant site.
Deputy Wayne County Treasurer David Szymanski says the county is hoping for the best on this deal as well.
"I believe that it will go through," Szymanski says of the purchase.
But he and the county are realistic about the grand plans.
Szymanski says, "We are really hoping that this guy can turn this around and turn it into something valuable, and it'll take off. If that happens, it'll be just spectacular, but if it doesn't happen, we want to be in a position where it's not going to sit there vacant for another forty years."
Hult shared renderings that paint a picture of his vision for the proposed "Villages of Packard." It's a grand vision for a desolate section of the city.
"I look at this and I see this finished," he said during a walk through the property. "I see windows in here. I see a park here, I see people coming and going to work, I see maybe a restaurant right down here. This is where people are sitting to have coffee on Sunday morning."
The project calls for a mixed use of commercial and residential--utilizing the century-old buildings designed by Albert Kahn. The majority of those old structures are believed to still be structurally sound.
"This building's been sitting neglected for quite a few years, but we still see that there is some strength in this building," says Rick Dye of the modern-day Kahn company. "There's some cosmetic work that needs to be done on the outside of it, maybe some of the floors need to be scraped off just to structurally stabilize them, but there's still a lot of possibilities of what can be done with these buildings."
What will happen next week? Will Hults become the new owner of the Packard Plant?
If he does, Bill Hults says he'll put up some serious fencing and hire 24-hour security guards for the area. He says he may even sell $20 tickets to tour the tunnels beneath the site.
Hults points to the bridge between buildings at the plant – a familiar focal point of the site – and says it will be one of the first areas to be developed. He sees a coffee shop in that bridge and says you may be able to watch the progress as you sip your coffee.
Watch more on this story and our interview tonight on 7 Action News at 5 p.m.