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Packard plant production line bridge collapses

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Image courtesy Google Street View.

At one point, wrapped in a graphic depicting it sans crumbling brick or rusted steel trusses, the bridge crossing Detroit’s East Grand Boulevard served as the emblem of the resurrection of Detroit’s decayed Packard plant. Now it lies in ruins after a late afternoon collapse on Wednesday.

Nobody was injured by the collapse of the 150-foot-long bridge, which left the road blocked as investigators combed through the debris, according to the Detroit Free Press. A spokesperson for Arte Express, the company owned by developer Fernando Palazuelo, said that recent freezes and thaws in Detroit may have played a role in bringing the bridge down, though concerns about its structural integrity had been raised over the last few years.

Originally built in 1939 to house a conveyor line that ferried completed bodies between the two sections of the plant on either side of East Grand Boulevard, the bridge was capable of supporting entire cars driving across its span, according to Packard historian Leon Dixon.

The Packard plant bridge in 1954. Photo courtesy Hugo90.

By late 2013, when Palazuelo bought the plant for $405,000 from the county at a foreclosure auction, the bridge appeared as worn down and graffiti covered as the rest of the Albert Kahn-designed plant initially built in 1903. As the Free Press noted, Palazuelo in fact only bought the northern half of the bridge with the plant; the southern half and the buildings on that side of the boulevard remain in possession of the city of Detroit.

While Palazuelo has started to clean up the property and demolished some of the collapsed or collapsing sections of it in preparation for his announced plans to restore it, nothing has been done to the bridge aside from the aforementioned wrap, installed in 2015.

According to the Arte Express spokesperson, Palazuelo would like to rebuild the bridge.

Photos via Detroit Historical Society.