John Gallagher (Detroit Free Press) has written an article arguing for greater public input about future development on Belle Isle.

Without losing site of the real issue, Mayor Kilpatrick and a well repected design team have been working on a plan to restore the Detroit Boat Club building and create a generous campus around it to support a Maritime Academy.

The impact on Belle Isle should not be taken lightly. Detroit needs to step up and demand public debate on what is arguably the city’s recreational jewel.

The obvious question: Why is it located on Belle Isle? I applaud the effort to restore the ailing Detroit Boat Club building, which was vacated when the club voted to move out of Detroit in 1999, but not to develop a good stretch of the northern shore. As Gallagher and others point out, this will have a tremendous impact on the island. This is not merely a couple of buildings, but an entire campus. One can argue the implications of the improvements required by the annual Detroit Grand Prix, but these are small compared to a facility with a much higher year-round usage. The renderings are poor quality and difficult to read specific buildings, but I’m willing to bet utility and maintenance facilities are not (accurately) depicted.

Why not somewhere else? There are many alternate locations that a Maritime Academy could be located. Why not take advantage of the momentum and public excitement of the River Walk and strategically place it to extend the walk further in either direction? Additional development would then affect the city, where it is needed, and not Belle Isle.

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