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Dix Land Debate Depends on State's Decision

Posted February 5, 2007

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— The fight over what to do with Raleigh's Dorothea Dix property is heating up.

Right now, two plans are receiving the most consideration.

Mayor Charles Meeker supports the Urban Land Institute plan, which calls for a 215-acre park with 248 acres of mixed use development.

A plan backed by the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park would create a 306-acre park and have development only on the perimeter.

There also are six other plans for the land—and a question whether the state will sell the property to the city at all.

For 150 years, the land has been home to the Dorothea Dix State Hospital. The hospital is closing in late 2007 or early 2008 and moving to a new Central Region Hospital in Butner. That opens up possibilities for the land.

The city hopes to buy the land for $40 million, but there's no guarantee the state will let it go. Right now, the state is building a fueling station on the land, and that investment is fueling Meeker’s concern that the deal might not happen at all.

Jay Spain of the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park puts his organization’s position bluntly: “Our plan is the best plan for the 306 acres of Dix property.”

The group sees the entire property as a park of world-class caliber, fostering development around the outside.

The ULI plan that Meeker favors calls for renovating the hospital buildings and using them for the staff of the state Department of Health and Human Services. Two-thirds of the land would be a park.

The General Assembly will decide whether the state sells the land to the city. Lawmakers are expected to draft a bill to that effect during this legislative session. Whether it passes or in what form remains to be seen.

Not much is known about how the debate and the politics will play out. Meeker’s analysis summed up what is known, however.

“It's going to end however the state wants it to end,” the mayor said.
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