Detroit’s Display Group Plans $750,000 on Packard Building Renovations


Detroit-based Display Group, an event specialist company which last year acquired Packard Building No. 22 along I-94 on Detroit’s east side, is spending $750,000 on renovations and upgrades to create a major event space and showroom.

“We are delighted to be fully restoring and upgrading a building that is an important part of the history of Detroit, particularly in this long-neglected part of the city,” says Rick Portwood, president of the Display Group.

The five-year renovation plan includes repairing the roof, rehabilitating the existing cafeteria, installing a new elevator, and finishing the parking lots. The company has so far repaired office areas, installed new lighting, and put in heating equipment, among other repairs and renovations.

The company is in the process of creating a 10,000-square-foot showroom/event space within the facility, which will be made available for private business functions and meetings. The Display Group also is creating a much more efficient inventory and storage system, as well as adding direct to substrate printing and routing equipment, and an expanded production shop and paint booth.

“Although the renovation process comes with challenges, we are proud to bring back a part of history,” Portwood says. “Also, it will set us up for major growth, which will fuel future development to the building and the surrounding neighborhood.”

The Display Group purchased the building from Detroit-based Kirlin Co., which had turned the building into a storage facility and business offices. It had been leased to four separate companies, as well.

The U.S. Government built Packard Building No. 22 in 1939 in 10 months. The facility was built for the production of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine during World War II. Overall, more than 55,000 aircraft engines for the Mustang P-51 fighter plane were built at the 225,000-square-foot facility, along with 30,000 square feet of “dog house” structures atop the main warehouse that were used for employees locker rooms.

Packard Motor Car Co. was founded in Ohio in 1899, and moved to Detroit in 1903 where it eventually operated from a 40-acre manufacturing campus. The company’s automobiles competed well in the luxury sector, and for a time was one of the leading automakers of the day.

Packard acquired Studebaker in 1954, largely due to a 1953 price war engineered by Henry Ford II, at the time president of Ford Motor Co. The acquisition proved to be ill fated, with Packard closing in 1958 and Studebaker in 1966.

Today, the 3.5-million-square-foot Packard plant, save for the portion acquired by the Display Group, is owned by Peru investor Fernando Palazuelo, who is in the midst of restoring and renovating the complex into a collection of offices, lofts, industrial spaces, production operations, and other uses.

Below is a timeline of the Display Group’s renovation plan.

Completed Work:

  • Cleaning the entire warehouse and first floor offices (complete)
  • Refinishing/blasting a significant segment of the original concrete flooring 
  • Installing new environmentally friendly lighting system for the warehouse (complete)
  • Installing a new environmentally friendly heating system for the warehouse (complete)
  • Fixing and repairing six overhead dock doors and plates (complete)
  • Replacing five interior overhead doors (complete)
  • Repairing the existing roof (complete)
  • Tuck Pointing and mortar repair (complete)
  • Installation of video surveillance and security system (complete)
  • Installation of new automated access gates and doors (complete)
  • Installing glass blocks in office area (in progress)
  • Fixing and repairing new office areas (in progress)
  • Installing new electric and HVAC for office area (in progress)

Within five years, work will include:

  • Rehabilitating the existing cafeteria for food service or restaurant lease
  • Rehabilitating the second, third and fouth floor offices for rentals
  • Installing a new elevator
  • Finishing front parking lots

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