Construction starts on Lear seat plant at old Cadillac site in Detroit

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Officials celebrated Monday the start of construction on a $48 million complex on the site of the former Cadillac Stamping plant on the city’s east side.

Named the M3 Commerce Center, the site along Gratiot Avenue and Conner will be home to Lear Corp. as it makes seats for GM’s Factory Zero Assembly factory in Detroit/Hamtramck when it opens in mid-2022. The center is named for Gratiot, which is also known as M-3.

“We like the Detroit industrial market, we really like the direction the city is heading and soon we’ll be pouring concrete ... we’ll have a roof on the building and the walls around it,” Tim Conder, vice president of acquisitions for Missouri-based NorthPoint Development, said Monday during the groundbreaking. “It’s a real exciting time in Detroit and on behalf of NorthPoint Development, we’re proud to be part of it.”

Conder was joined by several officials as they ceremonially turned dirt at the site to mark the occasion. Construction machinery rumbled on the site as crews worked on the 43-acre property.  

"It's a real exciting time in Detroit and ... we're proud to be part of it," said Tim Conder of Missouri- based NorthPoint Development.

Lear will occupy nearly two-thirds of the 684,000-square-foot building and is expected to bring 450 jobs to the city. It has signed an agreement with Detroit at Work to give Detroiters first chance at the available jobs, said Nicole Sherard-Freeman, the city’s group executive for jobs, economy and Detroit at Work.

Frank Orsini, executive vice president and president of seating for Lear, said the company is committed to Detroit and looks forward to supporting GM's vision of bringing more electrified vehicles to market.

"We plan to create a facility that will be one of the most energy efficient facilities in Lear's global manufacturing footprint," he said. 

Mayor Mike Duggan thanked NorthPoint Development for taking on the old stamping plant site, an idea he said he pitched to the company three to four years ago. 

"They were able to do it with the help of the state, with the help of the county and will the full support of Detroit City Council," he said. "That got us toward a site being ready."

Duggan also thanked GM CEO Mary Barra and GM President Mark Reuss.

"I can't say enough about what they mean to this city," he said. "When they decided to build the vehicles of the future at Factory Zero, they made Nicole and me one other promise. Every time they picked a part supplier, they would call us first ... so we could get a chance to pitch them on a site. ... I was pleased to call Ray Scott, the CEO of Lear and say, 'I've got good news for you and by the way I have a site for you.'"

Kevin Johnson, CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, said the development is an example of the work the agency is doing to prepare other sites for construction.

“This project goes at the very core of what we want to do at the city of Detroit, which is making this development attractive for new investment and new jobs for Detroiters," he said. "By putting more resources in contaminated sites and blighted properties and productive use, we’re creating more inventory of shovel-ready parcels that Detroit needs in order to receive more investment consideration.”

The stamping plant dates to 1925, when it was built for the Hudson Motor Company. Designed by Albert Kahn, the factory sent automobile bodies to the Hudson main assembly plant at Jefferson Avenue. GM bought the plant in 1956 and used it to build hoods, fenders and bumpers for Cadillac cars. The 915,655-square-foot plant has sat mostly vacant since the 1980s; the Ivan Doverspike Company ran a limited operation there until 2015.

This summer, the site was awarded $1 million from a Renew Michigan grant through the Wayne County Brownfield Development Authority to assist in remediating the site.

“A century of industrial and commercial operation at the Cadillac stamping property has left a legacy of contamination,” said Liesl Eichler Clark, director of Michigan EGLE. “Potential sources, just to name a few, include pressing and metal stamping, electroplating, dry cleaning, paint byproducts, former railroad operations and coal storage. You can see there’s some things certainly to contend with.”

Other incentives include Detroit City Council's approval of a 12-year tax abatement for the project in January. In December, the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Strategic Fund board approved $3.3 million in brownfield tax credits.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN