Raleigh, N.C. — Boosters of turning the Dorothea Dix campus in downtown Raleigh into a park say they'll outline plans to raise private funds for the project less than 20 hours before to state leaders are scheduled to vote on the plan.
The Dix Visionaries, a group of North Carolina business and community leaders which includes Jim Goodmon, the CEO of WRAL News parent Capitol Broadcasting, are scheduled to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. on Monday, along with fellow park boosters Friends of Dorothea Dix Park and Dix 306.
The Council of State, which is made of the 10 North Carolina officials elected statewide, is set to meet 9 a.m. on Tuesday to vote on the Dix deal. In addition to the governor and lieutenant governor, members of the Council of State include the state's Secretary of Labor and Attorney General. The group has the power to approve and reject deals involving state property.
Gregory Poole, Jr., a retired developer who has led the visionaries group, has said in prior interviews that he would like to see Dix become a "destination park" that would draw visitors from beyond the capital city.
In a news release Sunday night, the visionaries group said, "Destination parks are the center of many of the nation’s great cities, widely acclaimed for providing economic stability, attracting relocating industries and improving overall quality of life. Examples of Destination Parks include St. Louis’s Forest Park, Chicago’s Millennium Park, New York’s Central Park and Atlanta’s Piedmont Park."
Property's future in dispute
Currently, the Dix campus is owned by the state of North Carolina. It was once home to a mental hospital, but the campus is now mainly occupied by Department of Health and Human Resources offices.
Gov. Bev Perdue plans to move those offices away from Dix and consolidate them with other DHHS offices throughout Wake County. That plan would have taken state workers in 60 different buildings and placed them in a total of five or six. However, it doesn't appear that the consolidation plan will be ready for the Council of State meeting on Tuesday.
The council is scheduled to review a plan that would lease the Dix campus to the City of Raleigh for up to 99 years. As a condition of the lease, the city will lease back to the state the office space it currently occupies until a consolidation plan can be worked out and executed.
Details of the lease revealed in the Council of State's agenda show that the city would pay $500,000 per year to the state. The price for the lease would rise by 1.5 percent every year, but the city would get a discount for any property that the state is still using.
The plan is not uncontroversial. Republican leaders at the General Assembly have called on Perdue to delay action on the plan until Pat McCrory, who will take over as governor Jan. 5, has a chance to review the deal.
McCrory has said that he would like time to review the deal. But the visionaries group have listed him as a member of their "advisory council." A spokesman for the governor-elect called that statement "inaccurate," saying that McCrory never formally committed support to the group.
Poole said that he spoke to McCrory just as he was leaving office as mayor of Charlotte in 2008.
"He said to me, 'I wish that I had the same opportunity here in Charlotte,'" Poole recalled. Pooled later followed up with a phone call.
Poole said that McCrory was very supportive on both occasions but could not recall or document whether McCrory had agreed to have his name listed as an advisory to the group.