Here’s a name you likely didn’t expect to see in the news this week: Oldsmobile. Despite being discontinued in 2004, the name popped up on General Motors’ media site earlier this week as the former Olds headquarters in Lansing, Michigan, is now a giant, five-story advertisement for the 2013 Cadillac ATS. That may sound unusual until you consider the vacant, dilapidated Oldsmobile offices are literally located right alongside GM’s Lansing Grand River assembly plant, which builds the ATS.
When Ransom Olds moved his automobile business out of Detroit in 1902, he settled on the banks of the Grand River in Lansing. What started as a simple factory grew exponentially over several decades. That growth included Administration Building 70, which was built between December of 1964 and the summer of 1966. Placed on the outer corner of Olds’ sprawling downtown manufacturing complex, the offices provided space for division executives, sales and marketing administrators, public relations officers, and so on. Oldsmobile employees continued to use the building until 1996, when they were finally integrated with other GM employees in the metro Detroit area.
With the exception of a parts warehouse and former engine factory located on Lansing’s west side, most of the former Olds manufacturing empire no longer stands in Michigan. A plant along Verlinden Avenue – originally founded in the 1920s by Durant Motors before ultimately serving as a body shop in its last years – was closed in 2005 and demolished shortly after. An Olds foundry, originally built in 1952 to cast turbine parts for Buick-built jet engines, closed in 2006 but wasn’t completely demolished until late 2010. The Lansing Craft Center, a former Olds foundry that later built low-volume oddities like the Buick Regal, GM EV1, and Chevrolet SSR, was razed in 2009. An Oldsmobile engine plant along the Grand River was demolished in 1999 to make way for GM’s new Lansing Grand River facility, which began building CTS sedans in 2001. That plant operated alongside Lansing Car Assembly, a factory that built Chevrolet Malibus and Pontiac Grand Ams until its closure and demolition in 2005.
Despite all this change and demolition, the vacant and aging Oldsmobile headquarters stand tall in Lansing to this day, nearly ten years after the demise of the Oldsmobile brand. Rooftop signage was removed in 2006 and donated to a local museum, and chain-link fence was erected around the battered-looking building itself, but the towers somehow managed to avoid demolition. Its future remains unknown (and a GM representative couldn’t comment on any timetable for redevelopment), but in the meantime, it at least looks a little prettier, thanks to these enormous vinyl banners. Participants in local ride-and-drive programs, staged in the Lansing Grand River parking lots in front of Building 70, will immediately notice the ATS banners, but if they look closer at the marble walls behind the fences, they’ll see traces of a different GM brand.