By JERRICE DONELSON, Staff Writer
Bingham Farm developer and author of the book titled, “Belle Isle, Detroit’s Game Changer”, Rodney Lockwood has an idea that would monumentally change Detroit’s landscape – make Belle Isle a commonwealth. Simply put, Belle Isle will be a semi-independent city-state, similar to Puerto Rico or Monaco that will be self-reliant on its residents and investors who will “buy in” at $300K to inhabit the free-market isle with its own laws, currency, monorail system and air strip on the Detroit Shore to access the new enclave (Detroit Free Press). Lockwood’s book features his fictional-futuristic idea as an innovative reality that could “fix” the City of Detroit at a price tag of $1-Billion, along with suggestions of increased investment and jobs for the city.
Lockwood pitched his brainstorm along with his partners, retired former President of Chrysler Hal Sperlich and Larry Mongo, owner of d’Mongo’s SpeakEasy in Detroit to a group of CEO Representatives from various industry sectors including Detroit Cornerstone Schools, Walbridge, Detroit City Council and Detroit Economic Growth at the Detroit Athletic Club last week.
The virtually tax-free enclave idea was received with mixed reviews by many of the attendees as the question loomed of how this venture would genuinely help Detroit’s current financial woes and increase its viability to return as a major metropolis. According to Sandy Baraugh, President and CEO of Detroit’s Regional Chamber, the idea wasn’t overwhelmingly convincing without hearing how Detroit would benefit from the new commonwealth’s geographical approximation only. “Having rich neighbors doesn’t make you rich,” referring to the example of Grosse Pointe next to Detroit, still known as one of the poorest cities in the nation (Detroit Free Press). Lockwood’s idea, which is less detailed and lends its approximation greatly to Ayn Rand’s premises on a free-market, was initially met with some reservations.
However, there were some who believe in the vision of seceding Belle Isle from the state of Michigan as an answer to near bankrupt Detroit’s cash flow. Considering Belle Isle has been a part of Detroit historically from its inception, the idea of the isle no longer being connected to the city and its residents will definitely generate a topic of discussion among Detroiters and future Belle Islanders that proves to be as controversial as the idea itself.