Raleigh, N.C. — Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Wednesday that Raleigh officials are hammering out final details of a contract to purchase the Dorothea Dix property from the state, and the deal could be approved as early as May.
"We are very, very close to being done," McFarlane said following a closed-door meeting with City Council members and city attorneys.
Raleigh officials and Gov. Pat McCrory's administration reached an agreement in January for the city to purchase the 308-acre Dix campus, once home to the state's first psychiatric hospital, for $52 million. City leaders have long envisioned a major park on the site.
Three state senators have filed a bill that would put the Dix site up for auction, with the opening bid at $52 million and the proceeds going to mental health programs. No action has been taken on the proposal, which also would allow the state Department of Health and Human Services to keep its offices on the campus for 10 years.
"We’ve worked very hard with the governor and his administration," McFarlane said. "We’ve worked on this for two years, and we’ve done exactly what the General Assembly asked us to do. So, I feel like we have good support from the General Assembly.”
Raleigh signed a lease agreement for the Dix property in late 2012 with then-Gov. Beverly Perdue, but state lawmakers balked at that deal and proposed legislation two years ago to block it. That's when city and state officials restarted the negotiations that led to the pending sale.
"Some people are looking at this as the price per acre, and we’re looking at it as the value per acre," McFarlane said. "The value of a park and what that means to the city and the state ... really is a much better long-range plan for the state of North Carolina than to think about, could you carve it up and sell it."
McCrory doesn't need the legislature's approval to ink a final deal. That decision is made by the Council of State, a group of 10 statewide elected officials that includes the governor.
The Council of State holds its monthly meeting next week, but McFarlane said she doubts the sale contract can be finalized before then. The group's May meeting is a more likely timetable, she said.