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Raleigh Mayor Pressing State Lawmakers to Sell Land

Posted June 13, 2007

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— In a move that could push state lawmakers to make up their minds, the City of Raleigh plans to publicly announce an offer to purchase the Dorothea Dix campus from the state at a news conference Thursday morning.

The vision is a 300-acre urban park. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker calls it a destination park that would attract visitors who would bring tourism dollars to the area.

Meeker said historic buildings which are restored would only be used for purposes which are compatible with that of a destination park. The proposal would allow state Health and Human Services offices to remain on the site for three to five years rent free, but then move off site. No new office buildings would be constructed.

It would be a public-private partnership. About $10.5 million could come from the city, Meeker said. The rest would come from private donors.

Three groups that are pushing the park plan are expected to be at the news conference. The Friends of Dorothea Dix Park, Dix Visionaries and DIX 306 are expected to announce an amount from private donors. Greer Beaty, a spokesperson for The Friends of Dorothea Dix Park, says the contribution is "significant."

State lawmakers may not decide to sell.

"I don't want to be inflexible," said State House Speaker Joe Hackney, a democrat who represents Orange and Chatham counties. "We'll listen to what Raleigh has to say, but I don't think it's a good idea for the state to give up ownership of the land."

Hackney said he supports the idea of a park, but believes some of the land should be set aside for its original purpose - to provide mental health services.

State lawmakers will have to decide what they want to do with the property when the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital closes next year. That conversation is currently in committee. No action may come this legislative session.

"I think we're all frustrated at the pace this is taking. But this is something that requires patience, and persistence is rewarded," Meeker said.

The announcement came as a surprise to at least one city council member. Philip Isley said he learned about the news conference from reporters on Wednesday. He later received an email from the mayor. Isley supports the city's effort to acquire the land, but said it might be premature to commit city dollars to the offer.

The news conference is set for 10 a.m. Thursday at Raleigh City Hall.

21 Comments

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  • erggggg Jun 14, 12:11 p.m.

    patman75--that is interesting. i always thought it was her land!

  • tws1234 Jun 14, 11:58 a.m.

    THE PROPERTY BELONGS TO THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA. THE STATE SHOULD HAVE THE SAY SO OVER THIS NOT THE CITY OF RALEIGH.

  • TheBullCity Jun 14, 11:21 a.m.

    I want to point out that Dorothea Dix did not own or donate this land. She lobbied the legislature to found the hospital. Dix Hill was named in honor of her grandfather and the hospital was later renamed in her honor.

  • erggggg Jun 14, 11:18 a.m.

    codeblueemt i get my information from decision-makers on the project. raleigh developes open land at a rate of 1000 acres a year. i think reserving 300 for a park is increasingly important and useful. keeping dix's wishes to have mental health services is something that can be addressed later after raleigh acquires the land.

  • 1WakeCitizen Jun 14, 10:49 a.m.

    Its a shame that Mr. mayor is not even interested in honoring Dorothea Dix's request that the land be used for caring for Mental Health Patients. After all - she gave the land to the state - not sold it! And don't say we'll ship them to another part of the state with the money. Citizens with Mental illness have a right to live in their community just like everyone else.
    AND Justin - your comment was tastless and rude to say the least!

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Jun 14, 9:57 a.m.

    let's see.....raise taxes....raise taxes....raise taxes....buy big expensive piece of land, and make it a PARK...then raise taxes, raise taxes, raise taxes...

    Sounds about right. STUPID IDEA!

  • Harvey Jun 14, 8:47 a.m.

    Some of you are acting like Mayor Meeker is the one who shut DDH down. Wasn't it the state that did that?

    Anyway, make it a park- make it all a park. We need the greenspace downtown. If it doesn't work out THEN turn it into another North Hills or whatever you want. Give it 5-10 years and reevaluate the needs. However, if you plow it under now, you'll NEVER get it back.

    As for mental health facilities? Let then keep a little bit of the space for it, but I think better and newer facilities, being in Butner or Garner or SE Raleigh or anywhere, would server those needs better. Dix buildings are old and rundown.

  • Adelinthe Jun 14, 8:41 a.m.

    This SHOULD be sold to Raleigh. After all, who's going to be near the thing if problems arise later in the game? State lawmakers from as far away as Asheville?

    If Raleigh could potentially be saddled with problems from the land, and the potential is there, then Raleigh should govern it all the way.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Jun 14, 8:33 a.m.

    "the butner facilities are going to offer patients and dd workers a lot more resources and space then they have right now."

    erggggg, where do you get your information from? The Mayor? The new hospital is already going to be at least 100 beds short. They'll have to keep part of the old hospital at Umstead open for overflow. That means staffing 2 different physical locations. Where will that extra(and expensive)staff come from?
    You're taking 2 hospitals, combining them as one. DDH is already busting at the seams. Do the math. Admissions have been increasing steadily for years. The new hospital is not going to have enough space before it even opens. I could care less what happens to this land. The citizens of North Carolina, especially the mentally ill, deserve better.

  • wildervb Jun 14, 8:33 a.m.

    I like the idea of a large park in downtown Raleigh, but also wonder where mentally ill patients will be treated. Some plans should be made to provide more of these services at many locations throughout Raleigh, rather than figuring we'll just ship em all off to Butner.
    Also, why does it have to be all 300 acres, maybe 100 acres could be set aside for a smaller local mental health facility, leaving 200 acres for a park.
    As for the need for the park, isn't pullen park right down the road?

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