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Posted on Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

Could the former GM Willow Run Plant site soon house advanced technology companies?

By Katrease Stafford


RACER Trust Site Manager Cliff Lewis speaks about the 5 million-square-foot space at the former Ypsilanti Transmissions Operations facility in Ypsilanti Township on Tuesday, March 26.

Daniel Brenner I

The clock is ticking on redevelopment of the former GM Willow Run plant and the time is now to market the property to companies paving the way for new technologies, Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Paul Krutko said Monday.

Could the former 5-million-square-foot Powertrain Plant site be developed as a testing center for new technologies? Krutko hopes so.

"The site lends itself well for a testing center for new technologies," Krutko said this morning at the 2013 Eastern Leaders Group Summit.

"We think there's opportunity for some small aeriel devices. The ones we're talking about are the small ones that would go out and inspect a bridge. Right now we're working on bringing in market analysis in developing that type of project. ... Connective vehicle technology is coming. This is the next thing and we need to embrace it."

Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust took control of 89 abandoned GM properties on March 31, 2011. The trust was charged with selling, repositioning and cleaning up all the sites, 56 of which were in Michigan.

Although RACER has been tasked with selling the property, Krutko said SPARK has spoken with private sector entities who have shown interest. The powertrain plant is still for sale, as well as the Engineering Center, an office building attached to the main plant.

According to the company's marketing brochure, the total assessed value for the manufacturing building is $16,284,900, making its market value more than $32 million.

Thumbnail image for Paul_Krutko_Ann_Arbor_SPARK.JPG

SPARK CEO Paul Krutko

"We're actively looking for companies that have interest," Krutko said. "There is a lot of interest. The dynamics of the economy has made our region attractive to a number of foreign investors."

The redevelopment of the former Willow Run GM plant will continue to be vital moving forward, he said.

"As we all know, the plant does sit vacant," Krutko said. "This is a significant asset in terms of the amount of land mass and resources at that location... There is a clock on the disposing of that property. We've been focused on bringing our entrepreneurial services in full form to the eastern side of Washtenaw County." previously reported the International Turbine Industries, an aircraft maintenance firm, purchased the former General Motors Willow Run Company Vehicle Operations facility.

The company will use the property to expand its jet engine repair and parts sales business. The purchase will create 25 new jobs over the next five years and the company plans to invest $50,000 in repairs and improvements to the building.

Krutko said SPARK is working with University of Michigan students to help develop an assessment plan to figure out what would be the best fit for the site.

"As that development happens, the nearby neighborhoods are beneficiaries," Krutko said. "... It's very important to start with a goal in mind and work toward that vision."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Apr 9, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

"Krutko said SPARK is working with University of Michigan students to help develop an assessment plan to figure out what would be the best fit for the site." So this property's been for sale for a while, right? Does Spark own it? If not, what is their relationship with the owners? With the company that would get a percentage if it DOES sell? Are they just a free agent roaming around talking to the same people the real estate company is talking to? Where does SPARK fit into this property for sale thing? When the students and SPARK come up with their best use for the site, will that be a limitation on te future purchaser? What is result of this U of M/SPARK discussion? I'm really confused about what the deliverable is at the end of the work SPARK is doing. If the person who owns the property, or the real estate listing agent sell it, do they figure out if SPARK helped sell it, and then SPARK gets an assist fee?


Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

I can't tell what this article is talking about. What advanced technologies? Are we talking about drones?

Shataura Clayborne

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

This would be great for the county but I wonder how much actual communication has been done with the nearby neighborhoods. How would they be the beneficiaries?

Michigan Reader

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

The township tax base would increase if this site were fully developed.

Katrease Stafford

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

Good question, Shataura. I'm not certain, but here's my guess as to one way those neighborhoods might benefit from new businesses or development in that area. When the plant closed, the property values took a hit, partially because of being next to such a large vacant site, but also because of everything else going on in the economy. If it were to be redeveloped to its full potential, I think the values on those homes would increase as well.

Ben Freed

Mon, Apr 8, 2013 : 6:57 p.m.

If this came through it could be huge both for Ypsilanti and the entire Southeast Michigan region. The idea of building "Automation Alley" and an innovation corridor would receive a huge boost from an investment of this scale. The question is whether the building would be bought up in small chunks or if someone (Dan Gilbert perhaps?) would be willing to buy the whole property and redevelop it with high-tech product development in mind. Will be very interesting to see how this plays out.