Yankee Air Museum looks to buy portion of former Willow Run bomber plant
The museum is looking to move from its home on the east side of the Willow Run Airport to the former bomber plant in Wayne County's Van Buren Township, near Ypsilanti. The facility is adjacent to the airport's western boundary, Dennis Norton, the founder and first president of Yankee Air Museum and president of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation, said in the release.
The original museum was destroyed in a 2004 fire that also claimed eight aircraft, uniforms, medals, and thousands of artifacts valued at more than $4 million. It celebrated its grand reopening about six years later.
Norton presented the museum's plans to the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees Monday evening.
The museum has until Aug. 1 to secure funding, a deadline mutually agreed-upon by Yankee Air Museum and the building's owner, the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for the Yankee Air Museum, its members, supporters and the community as a whole to establish a new home in the building that was at the core of our Arsenal of Democracy," Norton said in a statement. "To relocate where men and women worked around the clock to produce the aircraft that helped preserve our nation's freedom will bring history to life in a unique and powerful way. I am grateful to the RACER Trust for providing us with this opportunity and for supporting our mission."
The bomber plant is roughly 175,000 square feet of the nearly 5-million-square-foot Willow Run Powertrain Plant facility. General Motors closed the plant in 2010. The RACER Trust took over 89 abandoned GM properties on March 31, 2011. Fifty-six of those properties were in Michigan. It was charged with selling, repositioning and cleaning up all the sites.
RACER officials told AnnArbor.com earlier this month they were in active discussions with several companies who were interested in the facility. RACER announced April 2 that International Turbine Industries, an aircraft maintenance firm, purchased the former General Motors Willow Run Company Vehicle Operations facility.
RACER has been marketing parts of the property separately as:
- The Company Vehicle Operations facility, now under contract with ITI
- The Engineering Center: An office building attached to the main plant
- The Powertrain Plant: 5 million square feet of manufacturing space
The Yankee Air Museum would purchase a total of 840,000 square feet -- or about 19.3 acres -- from RACER. The remaining space would include parking for 700 vehicles, according to the release.
Ford Motor Co. built the plant for B-24 production. It later was taken over by General Motors, the Associated Press reports.
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, according to previous AnnArbor.com reports.