Crushed Hopes

Detroit’s Packard Plant pedestrian bridge collapses after ice storm

Midwest News Preservation
The Packard Plant bridge as it appeared in August of 2018. (Google Maps)
The Packard Plant bridge as it appeared in August of 2018. (Google Maps)

Detroit’s Packard Plant pedestrian bridge collapsed Wednesday following an ice storm, creating despair among the city’s historians who had hoped to see it restored and resignation among local photographers, urban explorers and city admirers who anticipated the collapse.

The Packard Plant has been undergoing a massive restoration in recent years, going from one of Detroit’s most photographed pieces of “ruin porn” to a possible symbol of its resurgence. But the bridge collapse Wednesday just reminded people on social media and local news outlets of the challenges of renovating structures that have long been neglected.

For decades, Detroit’s automotive history and its declining population came together symbolically in that pedestrian bridge along East Grand Boulevard. The Packard Plant once served as a sign of the city’s manufacturing might. But the city’s fall from a population of 2 million to about 673,000 in recent years showed how Motown’s reliance on the automotive industry proved challenging at best, disastrous at worst.

Arte Express, whose owner, Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo, bought the plant in 2013 at a Wayne County tax auction, told the Detroit Free Press that the ice storm combined with warming temperatures throughout the day Wednesday were the pedestrian bridge’s final straw. According to an Arte Express spokesman, the city owns the building at 1539 E. Grand Blvd. that connects to the bridge, and the bridge is jointly owned by the city and Arte Express.

The city of Detroit released a statement about the collapse, indicating that there were no injuries and that the affected portion of East Grand Boulevard was closed by the Detroit Police Department: “Our first priority is to ensure the area is made safe for the public and the roadway is reopened as soon as possible,” the city said in a statement. “The City is taking the lead on clearing debris (and) we are making plans to bring in a contractor to remove the debris as quickly as possible.”

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