The Packard Plant in July. The former auto plant went up for auction this month for a starting price of $21,000 after no one offered to pay the $1 million unpaid tax bill at an earlier sale for the 42 parcels in September. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Detroit— Wayne County officials expect to see money Wednesday from a Texas doctor who won a tax-foreclosure auction for the Packard Plant, but acknowledge they’re concerned about a statement released by her staff that likened Detroit’s potential to hydroelectric power.
“It is the process that allows us to transform the lake from a canoeing and fishing kind of place into an energy producing kind of place,” reads a three-page statement from Dr. Jill Van Horn’s staff that was released to the media on Tuesday. “Detroit’s assets, like energy, also have a dormant value.”
“Dr. Van Horn’s prophecy was to resurrect Detroit by providing education, jobs and vocational training to the city’s residence, simultaneously unplugging the financial arteries of the city,” the statement read.
Van Horn won an online auction Friday by bidding $6 million for the largely dormant and crumbling plant on Detroit’s east side. It was a figure that astounded observers because the property could have been bought a month earlier for its unpaid taxes, $1 million.
She announced Monday she wants to build modular homes and offices at the plant. She has yet to come up with the money, but Tuesday’s statement assures that won’t be an issue.
In fact, if county officials doubt her means, she and her investors “are prepared to travel from Texas to Detroit and sit down the with county and make an offer for every vacant, abandoned and dilapidated apartment building within Detroit,” the statement reads.
Detroit has an estimated 70,000 vacant homes and structures.
The statement was attributed to Mark Day, who is identified as a Van Horn representative, and released by her spokesman, Davis Marshall. It was meant as a speech to investors, Marshall said.
Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski said late Tuesday that he’s read the release and has concerns about the group. His office spoke with Van Horn staffers earlier in the day and gave them a deadline of Wednesday to pay a “significant” portion of the $6,038,000 bid.
“It doesn’t appear legitimate but as long as someone comes up with the money I don’t need to question legitimacy,” Szymanski said. “I think we have properly protected ourselves against a failure to perform.”
As a part of the sale, the county will require the buyer to secure or demolish the property in six months or the county can seize the property back. If Van Horn can’t come up with the cash, Szymanski has said he could go with the second or third top bidders.
The next highest bid was $1,000 less. The third dropped out at $2,002,000. The county hasn’t identified the other bidders.
Marshall again said the money is not a problem, guaranteeing on Tuesday that Wednesday’s deadline “will be met.”
“Now is not the time for native Detroiters to bicker over the price of the Packard Plant,” the statement released Tuesday reads. “Now is the time to form a coalition made of past and future developers in order to make change in Detroit.”
“The decision (to bid on Packard) was based on the gravity of the hour and the magnitude of potential jobs that the plant offers for the people of Detroit.”
If Wednesday’s deadline falls through, it wouldn’t be the first time. A Chicago developer missed several deadlines in August to pay $1 million to acquire the property. He wanted to turn it into a mixed-use commercial and residential development.