Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti Township opens to public on Saturday

Open house will showcase 72-year-old plant's history

Published On: Oct 26 2013 12:00:00 AM EDT   Updated On: Oct 26 2013 01:25:26 PM EDT
BELLEVILLE, Mich. -

The public will have the chance to visit the former Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti Township one last time Saturday before the factory is demolished.

An open house for the public is from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the airport's Hangar 1.

The historic property was a centerpiece of the weapons-building Arsenal of Democracy during World War II.

The event is part of the nearby Yankee Air Museum's SaveTheBomberPlant.org campaign to preserve a 175,000-square-foot section of the 5 million-square-foot plant as its future home.

If the museum meets its $5-million fund-raising target by Nov. 1, it says it will win the right to acquire a section of the plant for an undisclosed sum in a deal with the General Motors bankruptcy trust.

"The contractor in charge of the former powertrain plant property has graciously agreed to open the bomber doors and invite the public inside that portion of the plant, but please note that we are unable to grant access to the remainder of the facility because of ongoing preparations for demolition," the museum said in a statement.

The museum said most of the plant is set to be demolished. The Revitalizing Automotive Communities Environmental Response trust, which controls more than 80 properties not transferred to the new GM in its 2009 bankruptcy, recently signed a deal with a demolition contractor to tear down the plant.

RACER also gave redevelopment rights to Detroit-based contractor Walbridge, which wants to transform the 332-acre property into a test track and research center for autonomous vehicle technology.

Henry Ford built the factory in 1941 to produce B24 bombers for the U.S. military. Designed by Albert Kahn, the museum said it employed as many as 42,000 people. One of the women who inspired the government's Rosie the Riveter propaganda image worked at the plant.

In the 1950s, GM acquired the plant, where it produced more than than 80 million transmissions until it closed in December 2010. The automaker had some 14,000 employees at the factory in the 1970s, but that dwindled to about 1,300 when GM announced in June 2009 the plant would close.