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Posted on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Trust in charge of Willow Run GM plant in Ypsilanti Township holds development open house

By Ben Freed

An open house was held Wednesday morning at the shuttered General Motors Willow Run Powertrain plant to showcase former GM properties for sale across the country, including the sprawling Ypsilanti Township factory.

The event, which targeted potential buyers, was held by the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust.

RACER was established in March 2011 by the U.S. Bankruptcy court to clean, revitalize, and eventually sell General Motors locations that were closed when the company declared bankruptcy in 2009. The event showcased both the properties and the partnerships the organization has fostered with local communities, government agencies, and prospective buyers.

RACER has made 17 sales thus far and expects to sell another two dozen properties in the coming year. However, according to Mathy Stanislaus, an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, some sites may take longer to complete the clean-up and redevelopment process.

"Some lend themselves to short term development, while others require more long term planning," he said. "The challenge is prioritizing among these properties."

open house RACER.JPG

Ben Freed |

The Willow Run plant was one of the largest plants to close and be put under RACER's management. The plant had been in operation since World War II when it produced one B-24 bomber per hour, the fastest rate in the country. GM took over the plant in 1953, and it produced over 82 million auto transmissions before closing in 2009.

Bruce Rasher, a RACER trustee, said that RACER is working within the regional "Aerotropolis" framework in developing a plan for the closed plant. The Aerotropolis idea is to bring global supply chains through the region, utilizing the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and the Willow Run Airport, which abets the closed plant.

They have teamed with the Wayne County Edge, Ann Arbor SPARK, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Ypsilanti Township, Washtenaw county, and other organizations to market the property to prospective buyers.

around computer at RACER.JPG

Attendees at the RACER open house examine sites that the Trust is currently operating.

Ben Freed |

"Our working idea is that the parts of the plant adjacent to the the airport would go toward aerospace companies," Rasher said.

"The parts of the plant closer to the rail and highway we are focusing more on general manufacturing and logistics users."

He added that and RACER has received interested from American aerospace companies and some Canadian companies who want to work with US Department of Defense contracts but need to do their manufacturing in America.

"RACER has a unique set of advantages and challenges as property managers," Rasher said.

"We have good relationships with both local communities and regulatory agencies that help us be more attractive to potential buyers. However, because we have the mandate for broad economic development and clean-up of sites, we demand more from our buyers than they are used to."

According to Rasher, In addition to talking about purchase price, RACER also requires the purchaser explain the plan for redevelopment or new development, how they plan to create jobs in the community, and they must investigate how the redevelopment would or would not interfere with the Trust's environmental cleanup.

These additional requirements can be hard for buyers who are not used to them, but RACER maintains that they are good for the long term health of the community.

Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Monica R-W

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 4:21 a.m.

Would have been nice to make this meeting OPEN to residents in the neighborhood RIGHT NEXT (West Willow Community) to this structure, still remaining in place. Instead, this was kept secret to these residents until it was reported this morning in Ann Interesting RACER officials, very INTERESTING....


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

Hmmm, djacks must be majoring in revisionist history at emu.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Just where exactly in the plant did they hold this open house. I used to work there and just happened to drive by there around 12:30 this afternoon. As I usually do as I pass I looked over from Ecorse Rd/Michigan Ave bypass and saw a parking lot overgrown with weeds, looked like some piles of trash too. They must have brought everyone in though another entrance because I was depressed just looking at the place that gave me gainful employment for 33 years.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

djacks, I was in the union and I can see you are anti union. I suppose the millions of dollars that the execs got in bonuses at GM while they ok'ed the inferior products and made inane management decisions got had nothing to do with the company going bankrupt.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Appears to be in the YTO area of the plant given the painted ceilings and fresh concrete in the pictures.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

My grandmother worked there during WWII. Its sad that a place so big and with so much history set there decaying because of a combination of bad economic policies, a period of inferior, overpriced products and probably moreover the labor unions literally forcing GM into bankruptcy. Its sad that the powers that be chose to sacrifice such a landmark of American pride and productivity for greed.