Developers plan to raze the former American Motors Corporation headquarters on Detroit’s west side to make way for a new industrial facility, which is expected to generate more than 300 permanent jobs, officials announced Thursday.
Missouri-based NorthPoint Development will demolish and clean the 2-million-square-foot site at 14250 Plymouth Road and build a new 728,000 square-foot industrial space for an automotive parts supplier. The project will cost about $66 million, but City Council will need to approve any proposed land sales and tax incentives some time after the legislative body returns to session in January.
Mayor Mike Duggan called the site a “source of embarrassment” that will become a source of employment for Detroiters.
“This has been nothing but an eyesore and drain on the neighborhood. This building is just not usable. And when I came in and we looked at it, it was going to cost $10 million to demolish it and clean up the site and given coming out of bankruptcy, we couldn’t really justify laying out $10 million on one site,” Duggan said.
If approved in early 2022, demolition would begin later in the year, and construction will kick off in 2023 with a completion anticipated for early 2024, if not sooner, said Tim Conder, vice president of acquisitions for NorthPoint Development.
“My goal is to make Detroit one of the top industrial markets in the country,” Conder said. “This is where the industry is.”
The developer will pay nearly $5.9 million to acquire 56 acres of publicly-owned property, including the city-owned AMC property, about 26 residential parcels from the Detroit Land Bank Authority and an 8.5-acre parcel west of the property from the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, according to the city.
Conder added that the city-run employment portal Detroit At Work will have “the first look at jobs” following the project. NorthPoint is also redeveloping the Cadillac Stamping Plant to house auto supplier Lear Corp. on a 43-acre site in Detroit.
AMC moved its headquarters to Southfield in 1975 and later, Chrysler bought the company, Duggan said. Chrysler kept some engineers at the Plymouth Road site until 2009 before shifting to Auburn Hills. Since then, the Detroit plant sat vacant and stood in disrepair. A variety of proposed reuses of the property came and went as the site was resold and later fell into tax foreclosure.
“We’re going to get rid of the rest of the blight in the city,” Duggan said, echoing a promise he made on election night when he claimed victory for his third term as mayor.
Cynthia Lowe, 70, who moved to the area in 1979 said the iconic tower was always lit, adding beauty to the community. But the vacant structure dimmed the neighborhood.
“When this building went down, the neighborhood went down,” Lowe said. “You had people buying their homes, and then people started moving away.”
Diann Malone, 78, has lived on Detroit’s west side since 1978, a time when she described the community as vibrant and active. However, she said, the community began to dwindle in the 1980s and looked more like a “ghost town” after the company moved to Southfield.
“All of a sudden, everything was gone. Everything stopped,” Malone said. “Once this started going down and dissipating, becoming nonexistent, a lot of the other vibrant businesses seemed to have pulled away and vacated the community.”
Malone said she remembers the site having a large Christmas tree and various amenities for the community to uplift their spirits.
“I’m just hoping that the revitalization and the restructuring of this building will show the community that there is a possibility that we will bring prosperity, and we will bring up the hopes and we will bring back up the spirit of our community,” Malone said.
Dana Afana is the Detroit city hall reporter for the Free Press. Contact Dana: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-635-3491. Follow her on Twitter: @DanaAfana.