Raleigh, N.C. — Plans to redevelop the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus could be held up for two years, officials said Friday.
The mental health hospital is expected to close early next year as patients are transferred to a new facility being built in Butner. The move will free 306 acres just south of downtown Raleigh for development.
Raleigh has offered $10.5 million to buy the land from the state and convert it into a Central Park-type attraction. Others have proposed a mix of housing, offices and retail on part of the property, and Gov. Mike Easley included plans for a Department of Health and Human Services office at the site in his budget proposal earlier this year.
Lawmakers didn't resolve the issue during the recently concluded legislative session, which could mean that the 3-year-old Dix debate will go on for another couple of years.
"It has been a very long and hard process," said state Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake. "It may well go into '09."
Cowell said it's unlikely such a hot-button issue would be addressed during next year's short session of the General Assembly. Also, most members of the Council of State will be up for election in 2008, making it unlikely they will touch the debate, she said.
"There's no question it's frustrating a decision wasn't made by the General Assembly," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "The offer made by the city (for the land) was in good faith."
Easley said he expects the issue to be resolved eventually with a large portion of the site preserved.
"We have to look at the whole state, where Mayor Meeker, to his credit, looks at Raleigh to try and see what's best for Raleigh. I live in Raleigh – that's really not a conflict – I have a feeling that's really going to get resolved in a good way," Easley said. "I hope we can preserve that property and all have a win-win out of it."