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Posted on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

Yankee Air Museum looks to buy portion of former Willow Run bomber plant

By Staff

The Yankee Air Museum has launched a $6 million campaign to move to the former Willow Run Powertrain Plant that manufactured B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II.


The Yankee Air Museum is housed at the Willow Run Airport.

Courtesy photo

Officials announced Monday evening that they seek to purchase and renovate a portion of the former Willow Run powertrain plant, according to a news release.

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 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 reports.



Wed, Apr 24, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

I didn't think they had the money to take over that building. So are they going to tear it down? Or are they going to take a portion of it? It'll be interesting to say the least to see what happens. Could just tear the whole thing down and build a hotel and a place to recceive guests who fly?


Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

You can donate to this cause by going to the Yankee Air Museum web site

Joe Zurawski

Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

That rule of thumb making "Assessed value" half of "Market value" is only approximate. The method of determining that approximation is set both by statute and by bulletins issued by the Dept. of Treasury. Then there are "Board of Review" and "Tax Tribunal" proceeding that further affect the valuations. Those processes are not able to adequately deal with rapidly changing conditions, especially when they are in the downward direction. The true market value of anything is only what someone is willing to pay.


Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

Big Dog is right, the bombers rolled out of the plant and only as finished goods did they hit Wayne County. Perhaps if WC applied their same offensive tax methodology today to the auto plants in the county they wouldn't be in such bad shape. Or do they only tax manufacturing during wartime?

Big Dog

Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

Actually, the plant is 99% Washtenaw County and a very small portion at the East side is Wayne County.


Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

No question the Yankee Air Force is a Michigan treasure and thier historic aircraft should be maintained for this and future generations. That said, the YAF is run by excellent mechanics, pilots and air crews, however they are completely unsuitable to manage a business, let alone a museum. The organization has so much potential, it is a shame that they don't recognize their strengths and weaknesses, hire or find the talent they need and really make something of the YAF. ..starting with fixing the corny name. These guys and their wives taking over a building or anything else is likely to be a train wreck, but good luck to them.