One Birmingham developer wants to make one big purchase in Detroit, but it's not a building or vacant land.
No, Birmingham resident and developer Rodney Lockwood, Jr. is leading up a group who wants to buy the 982-acre Belle Isle — for $1 billion.
"Prominent Republicans in Michigan will gather soon to hear a plan for investors to buy Belle Isle from the city of Detroit for $1 billion and turn the island park into a semi-independent city-state of 35,000 people with its own laws, government and currency," Steve Neavling of MotorCityMuckraker.com writes.
Inspired by the philosophies of Ayn Rand, Lockwood is the author of a book on the subject, Belle Aisle. The book looks at the possibility of an independent city state on Belle Isle that would not only become a "Midwest Tiger" but would help restore Detroit "to its former glory," Lockwood's website reads.
Lockwood is one of the owners of the Bingham Farms-based Lockwood Companies, which owns Lockwood Management, the Lockwood Construction Company and the Lockwood Development Company. According to the company's website, Lockwood specializes in developing multi-family and senior housing.
"We are among the people looking for answers to the city's problems," Lockwood told the Detroit News late last week. "You have to put ideas out there — especially now, when so much is up for debate."
A separate city-state on Belle Aisle would be based on three principles: limited government that provides "only services required for the benefit of all citizens"; a walkable community with "exceptional aesthetics"; and respect for all citizens. To become a citizen of the new Belle Isle could cost an individual $300,000.
Supporters for Lockwood's plan include David Littman, senior economist for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and retired Chrysler president Hal Sperlich.
Still, according to George Jackson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., Lockwood's idea won't go very far.
"Belle Isle will get fixed," Jackson told the Detroit News. "It won't be that plan. But it will be fixed."
The sale of Belle Isle requires the approval of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council. Lockwood and his supporters will officially present their plans Jan. 21 at the Detroit Athletic Club.