The Real Deal Chicago

GM tore down 1,500 Detroit-area homes to build a plant — and now it’s closing it

Residents of Hamtramck are angry their neighborhood was razed for the plant that’s now on GM’s chopping block
December 01, 2018 02:00PM

Left: Mary Barra, GM CEO and chairman (Credit: iStock, GM)

GM’s decision to shutter five factories and shed 15,000 jobs will hurt towns across the Heartland. But for one city GM is leaving, the pain is even more severe.

That’s because GM leveled a full neighborhood in suburban Detroit to build a then-state-of-the-art plant that was to build the Chevrolet Volt hybrid among other products. About 465 acres were cleared in the 1980s to make way for the plant, including 1,500 homes, 140 business, a hospital and six churches, according to Reuters. More than 4,000 people lost their homes.

GM has not definitively said the Hamtramck plant will be closed, but it acknowledged the facility will have no products to build after 2019 when GM pulls the Volt from production. The decision is leaving residents and local officials angry that they lost their neighborhood for a plant that’s likely to be closed.

“Now that the plant is going to close, people will wonder why that neighborhood had to be sacrificed in the first place,” Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski told Reuters.

The Michigan Supreme Court in 1981 approved the use of eminent domain to acquire the properties needed for the plant, but in 2004 the court reversed its precedent, calling the earlier ruling a “radical departure from fundamental constitutional principles,” according to Reuters.

Massive plants like GM’s in Hamtramck not only provide local jobs but help to buoy the local housing market, similar to how Ford’s auto plant in Chicago keeps South Side neighborhood Hegewisch afloat. The South Side plant helped lure Missouri-based Northpoint Development to build a 2.2-million-square-foot industrial complex next to the auto plant. [Reuters] — Joe Ward