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Race to a Decision on Dix: Easley Jumps to Early Lead

Posted February 27, 2007

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— There’s been plenty of debate, but no official decision on what to do with a prize piece of Raleigh real estate, the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus. The governor has made a move that speed up the process, however.

The 2008 budget that Gov. Mike Easley submitted last week includes $173 million in bond money to develop 25 of the 306 acres of the state property just outside downtown Raleigh. The city is hoping the state will sell it the land.

The 150-year-old state hospital is set to close late this year or in early 2008. What happens to that land will impact the capital city for generations, which led city officials to bring in planning advisers from the nationally known Urban Land Institute.

Easley wants to build a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient office complex for more than 3,400 Department of Health and Human Services employees.

“We need that. That is long overdue. We need that complex, and it will be the greenest building in the state,” North Carolina’s Democratic governor told WRAL.

The complex would be built on the edge of the Dix campus, along Lake Wheeler Road. DHHS employees who already work at Dix and thousands from downtown offices would fill the facility.

Politicians and planners have spent months talking about a putting a park, a mixed-used development or both on the site. A final decision hasn’t been made, which is why the budget item stunned some leaders.

“My reaction was a little bit surprised that it would be in this year's budget. It would have been great if everyone could have been on the same page,” Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake County, said. Malone co-chairs the committee studying the future of Dix.

The group hasn't yet found consensus, so, the senator and other lawmakers were surprised to learn the governor earmarked millions for the office complex.

“It is getting the cart before the horse in the governor's budget. What we need to do is determine what we're going to do with the Dix property first,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake County.

The governor says the jury is still out over what to do with Dix. He hopes the historic site can be preserved for public use.

Wake County leaders see the governor’s budget as an executive message.

“I know ultimately a decision has to be made on the Dix property. This may force us to move forward,” Malone told WRAL.

Easley’s chief economic adviser says that putting a new state building on the Dix campus makes sense.

“I believe this is the state's property first and foremost, and there's a lot of discussion that needs to take place on this,” said Dan Gerlach.

It now appears the governor is leading that discussion. The future of the Dix property will now become part of legislators’ budget negotiations.
22 Comments

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  • be...4...real Feb 28, 10:19 p.m.

    What I don't understand is why close Dix at all, especially when the surrounding hospitals will not be able to accommodate the influx of patients they are about to receive. The heinous part of it all is that no one knows what to do with the land. It has served a "healthy" purpose for the surrounding communities...think of it as a Mental Health Park if you must!!
    Build a state complex and keep us all on the hill. Remember, if they sell this land and commercialize it, the environmental beauty disappears. It will be too late once the Hill is sold and the patients begin to filter into the city, but maybe then the community will understand the "serenity lost". Hold your breath citizens, be careful what you ask for!

  • El Doggo Feb 28, 2:49 p.m.

    I think y'all need a Super-duper-mega-hugeathon-WalMart store right there! That way the famers market can grow with the competition! If it doesn't grow it'll die, just ask the chamber of commerce drones...

  • benia Feb 28, 2:31 p.m.

    Dorothea Dix ? Didn't she leave the land in her will for the mental ill? I believe there is a story behind this.

  • superman Feb 28, 1:32 p.m.

    The area is not suitable for a school. Parents want the school the next street over from their house. And heaven forbid it be a year round school! If they want to attract people downtown-- I suggest some big box stores, WalMart, K-Mart, couple assorted drug stores,a movie theatre, a Home Depot, Staples. There is nothing downtown to attract anything but rats. You dont need a theme park-- it is so much fun to try to get around in a shopping center-- any of you ever go to Crossroads Plaza-- driving around in circles and hearing people blow their horns is more fun than any theme park.

  • pink lady Feb 28, 1:17 p.m.

    bdl3...i totally agree with you...

  • thisisme Feb 28, 12:53 p.m.

    Being a DHHS employee myself and working DOWNTOWN, I think it is a good idea. It would cut time off of my travel and I won't have to deal with the downtown jam every morning and afternoon. I think it is a good idea, but whether or not it is approved and that is what happens, is a totally different story.

  • You Betcha Feb 28, 11:54 a.m.

    Easley and mental hospital mentioned in the same sentence in the same story. That's too easy, I will not even go there other than to say the voters that put him in office twice should be listed in a sentence that includes mental hospital.

  • amypsychrn Feb 28, 11:09 a.m.

    "They need to reopen the hospital or build a new hospital. There are many people in our communities that need mental health care. The state is putting its citizens at risk to save a few dollars." The above is quoted from a previous poster.
    Dix is closing. However, a NEW hospital is being built in Butner. It is combining John Umstead and Dix into one facility. This will give us three State Psych facilities. Cherry in Goldsboro, the one in Butner and another near the Mountains. The state will be divided into 3 areas instead of 4 and the patients will go to the hospital that is responsible for their county. What we need is better outpatient care for the mentally ill.

  • tall pack fan Feb 28, 10:12 a.m.

    Raleigh doesn't need a 280 acre park near downtown, it will be too large for law enforcement to patrol and keep safe. I don't know how many of you have been to that part of town lately but it isn't the best. Second, do you know how much it would cost for the city to maintain a park that large? Yes, a good portion of it should be kept as a park for everyone to enjoy, but they're going to have to put something there other than the DHSS to attract people on a daily basis.

  • innocent bystander Feb 28, 9:55 a.m.

    Theme park? Christian center? Sheesh! This city is so eat-up with greedy developers and so-called "progress" that no one seems to be able to appreciate the value of land unless it is covered in steel and concrete. Give DHHS its new, badly needed facility on the edge of this land, and make the rest a park for everyone to enjoy. I think I hear God talking too, but he's saying, "how 'bout keeping this land like I originally made it?"

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