Local News

Meeker wants Dix land deal before leaving office

Posted October 6, 2011

— Raleigh's outgoing mayor says he hopes to get a land deal worked out with the state before he leaves office that would allow the city to buy the 306 acres of land currently occupied by the state's oldest mental health hospital.

Charles Meeker has been in negotiations to turn the Dorothea Dix Hospital Campus into a park similar to New York's Central Park when the mental health hospital eventually closes its doors and moves patients and operations to other state facilities.

"We’ve worked on making Dorothea Dix a destination park for more than five years, and hopefully we’re getting pretty close," Meeker said Thursday. "I'd very much like to wrap this project up before I leave office next month."

Both the governor and the Council of State must agree to sell the land for a deal to go through.

"I really think the state view has changed. The state really has adopted the idea that a destination park is the highest and best use of that land, because it would not just serve Wake County, which is 10 percent of the state revenue, but really the whole state," Meeker said.

There's agreement there, he added. The challenge is finding the right price.

Five years ago, the city offered $10 million to buy the land, but the mayor said he thinks that even though the real estate market is down some, the ultimate price will be above the initial offer.

"The (City Council) has given me a number to work from, and I’m hoping to meet with the governor soon to see if we can work something out," the mayor said. "We need to hear about the range and see if it's something the city could afford."

Dorothea Dix-Raleigh land deal Meeker wants Dix land deal before leaving office

It's still unclear when the hospital will close and move from the campus.

Although the hospital cares for less than 3 dozen patients, more than 1,300 employees for the state Department of Health and Human Services still work in other buildings on the property.

DHHS officials have said there are no plans to leave.

Meeker says the state could keep the existing employees there for 5 to 10 years but eventually would leave the campus.

For years, there has been a lot of public debate and campaigning about what to do with the prime piece of real estate near downtown.

Developers have eyed the property for apartments and condominiums and retail space, but the state of the economy has all but silenced those plans, says Gregory Poole, founder of Dix Visionaries, a group of local business and community leaders wanting to preserve the land.

"The local developers who would ordinarily salivate over developing this and buying it for profit have joined with us to ask that it be preserved," Poole said.

The group, which gathered local business and civic leaders together Thursday evening at the North Carolina Museum of Art to support preserving the campus, wants to see a park with some kind of anchor – such as a botanical garden, aquarium or museum – that would attract tourists. They liken it to something similar to Atlanta's Piedmont Park or Chicago's Millennium Park.

"We just feel a burden on our shoulders from our forefathers, saying, 'Hey, carry the load. Let's continue to plan, let’s continue to be bold, brave, visionary and leave this place a better community than we found it,'" Poole said. "So that’s our call."


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  • Bill Brasky Oct 7, 2011

    "This is why most people from outside the beltline don't go downtown to eat and go out."

    I doubt you go downtown often. The city has changed in the past ten years, you should check it out, and parking in the parking decks are free after 6:00 pm.

  • bill0 Oct 7, 2011

    "This is why most people from outside the beltline don't go downtown to eat and go out."

    Huh? During the evening, most of those lots are free. Besides, "most" people don't go downtown because they go someplace close to their house. That is fine. It isn't like there are enough tables for a 100,000 suburbanites to eat downtown anyway. However, if you are in the mood for something a little different, there are tons of great places to go in the downtown area. If that isn't your bag and you would rather go to Chili's for the millionth time, go for it. I doubt your bad attitude will be missed.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Oct 7, 2011

    There isn't a problem with parking downtown as long as you're willing to spend money parking in one of the unused city and county parking decks.

    This is why most people from outside the beltline don't go downtown to eat and go out.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Oct 7, 2011

    Meeker never misses a chance to spend tax dollars on something unnecessary and raise taxes because of that spending.

  • wakemom Oct 7, 2011

    It's just like Ground Zero. The property is bascially sacred ground and a burial place for thousands who lost their lives. The City and Port Authority couldn't wait to build something else there. Greed........

    are you seriously comparing ground zero to the city of raleigh wanting to build a park??? i mean seriously??

  • wakemom Oct 7, 2011

    many are saying there are several parks downtown but they only naming one. pullen park? what are the names of the other several parks downtown?

    and there are plenty of parks downtown. if you're circling the block and cant find a park that is bc you're being too cheap to park in the parking garage. there are plenty of spaces in their.

  • working for deadbeats Oct 7, 2011

    He really wants to go out with a bang. I wonder if he is practicing his liberal spending for a future DC job.

  • gopack54 Oct 7, 2011

    There is no glut of parking downtown. Try finding a space. Circling the block(s) gets old real quick.

  • gopack54 Oct 7, 2011

    dwntwnboy - that will never be a great part of town residential wise unless the federal government steps in and makes it that way, and we don't need any more government intervention or spending at this point. Budgets are being stained and cut everywhere. Exactly where would the funding come from to purchase the land?

  • bill0 Oct 7, 2011

    "Which parks do you go to? There are several in Raleigh not far from downtown."

    Maybe you are unfamiliar with the concept of a "downtown." If you have to get in your car and drive someplace, you really aren't in a "downtown" anymore.