Fate of historic Belle Isle Boathouse to be decided in early 2024

Amid concerns from residents it could be torn down, the state is asking for input on plans for the future of the Belle Isle Boathouse. The Department of Natural Resources plans to make a final decision on the historical property in early 2024.

Now more than 120 years old, the 40,000-square-foot structure is in dire need of repairs that come with an estimated price tag of around $50 million.

Worries over a possible demolition grew after the DNR said it lacked a longterm solution to improving the boathouse and weighed removing it and repurposing the space. A supervisor with the DNR previously said demolition was "getting the most attention" since accessing enough money for a full round of repairs hadn't come in.

"There are sections where there are collapsed balconies. From the outside, you see the cement stucco peeling off the building. There are several areas of roof infiltration. There’s a section where the floor is collapsed," said Tom Bissett at the time.

But supporters of the boathouse don't think the time has come to say goodbye to the spot. 

It was used by the Detroit Rowing Club until a lack of storage space pushed the group to erect a temporary facility on the site. 

According to the DNR, there are around $200 million in needed repairs to many of the relics that exist on Belle Isle. So far, the agency has secured $115 million in investments on the island, including around $52 million in preservation. About half of that came from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Around $10 million of that went toward restoring the conservatory's dome

Several studies have been commissioned to map out the best course of action for the boathouse - but without enough money, it's fate could be left in limbo. 

The public is asked to send comments on the project by Dec. 31. An online form can be found here, as well as more details on the project.


Belle Isle Boathouse fate uncertain as officials consider demolishing historic structure

Fixing the boat house would not be cheap, coming in with a $50 million price tag by some estimates.