Local News

Group Offers $7 Million to Develop Park on Dix Land

Posted June 14, 2007

— A group of private supporters on Thursday pledged $7 million to help Raleigh transform the Dorothea Dix Hospital property into a massive park near downtown.

The state plans to close the mental health hospital by the end of the year and is considering options for the 306-acre site.

Raleigh officials have offered to buy the property from the state for $10.5 million in hopes of creating a Central Park-type attraction just south of downtown. Although the land likely could fetch a much higher price if it were developed as retail, office or residential space, Mayor Charles Meeker said the city's offer is a fair price for parkland.

A private group called Dix Visionaries announced Thursday that it would back the city's money with another $7 million to pay for initial planning and development of the site.

"The Dix Visionaries plan will propel this state that we live into the forefront of our nation," said Dix Visionaries leader Gregory Poole Jr. "We cannot continue to attract the great thinkers -- the great minds of this world -- to our city if we don't  pay equal attention to our quality of life and the quality of life that we want to preserve for those in the future."

Poole, a Caterpillar equipment dealer in Raleigh, said Dix Visionaries includes developers, business executives and former North Carolina governors. The group is committed to continued fundraising beyond the $7 million pledge to help develop the park, he said.

Dix Visionaries joins with two advocacy groups, Dix 306 and Friends of Dorothea Dix Park, in backing the city's plan for a park on the site.

"What could happen in these 306 acres could truly be dynamic," said Bill Padgett of Dix 306.

Any sale of the property must be approved by state lawmakers.

"With the stroke of their pen, the General Assembly can be remembered as having the forethought, the vision, to protect a resource that we will never, ever have again," said Jay Spain of the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park.

Meeker said Thursday that he hopes the public-private partnership will spark action by the General Assembly.

"We are hoping that the General Assembly will act this session to get something done," he said. "The three advocacy groups and the city, coming together, we hope it will provide support to get people moving. The debate could go on another year. Really, I think people understand the problem, and now's the time to make the right decision."

House Speaker Joe Hackney said he supports development of a park on part of the Dix property, but wants to retain some of it for mental-health care. He also said he opposes an outright sale of the state-owned land.

Sen. Vernon Malone, a member of the legislative committee charged with planning for the future of the Dix site, called Raleigh's offer for the land premature. The panel hasn't worked out the details of a final plan for the land, but should have recommendations ready in a few weeks, he said.

The committee received five proposals for the land, ranging from a park to full-scale, mixed-use development.

"It's unlikely the 300 acres will all be a park and even less likely it will be sold for $10.5 million," said Malone, D-Wake. "The city's action is not going to stampede the General Assembly into making a decision."

The city sent a letter to Gov. Mike Easley Thursday in an effort to gain his support of a sale and the development of a park, Meeker said.

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  • lollly52 Jun 15, 5:51 p.m.

    @Steve Crisp - "I own an ISP and a software development firm."
    I should have known. Do you have a newsletter or something about this issue?

  • lollly52 Jun 15, 5:48 p.m.

    Applesmith - laws and sausage - both are yucky to watch being made; however, I think that generating a revenue stream that could help the mentally ill is a good idea. And improving the taxbase downtown could help keep th lid on taxes for all of us.
    What do you think?

  • Steve Crisp Jun 15, 5:42 p.m.

    Thanks for the offer lollly, but I own an ISP and a software development firm.

  • applesmith Jun 15, 5:35 p.m.

    Future headline: state sales Dix Land to out of state builder. Same is to build Bussiness complex with million dollar condos for Bussniess excutives. Also mayors office City and County commisioners office will be in same. Hmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!

  • lollly52 Jun 15, 5:22 p.m.

    @Steve Crisp - I could put up a google website for you if you want a rallying point on the web; do webmaster tasks to create/maintain a googlegroups for email alerts; post position papers on the web for you - its very easy to do.

  • Steve Crisp Jun 15, 3:26 p.m.

    With all these folks agreeing with me, why am I the only one at any meeting talking about development into a downtown area? I am surrounded by 200 or more ecowackos all the time and am the lone voice for fiscal sanity.

    Cause if folks don't start standing up to our wonderful elected officials, that is gonna be a park. And once it is, it will be forever unavailable for any other use -- at least until we figure out how to oust all the liberals from office.

  • E-Diva Jun 15, 2:07 p.m.

    I agree with Steve Crisp and Likemenow... DEVELOPING the site into a park is short sighted and a waste of money (without generating any additional tax base). Raleigh does not need a Central Park. This is NOT NYC. I love green trees as much as the next guy, but that is just simply not the best use of this prime piece of real estate.

  • likemenow Jun 15, 11:47 a.m.

    RE:"who said that the state would not part with the land for cheap are correct."...With that in mind, I think that they have a responsibility to the citizens of North Carolina to demand the highest price possible..anything less and they are fail.

  • lollly52 Jun 15, 11:27 a.m.

    @Steve Crisp – I do have a tad of tree hugger in me. It is hard to accept the loss of the Dix property because it is so nice; however, given that the infrastructure is there to support high rise; a park would be a huge draw for the homeless (many of them mentally ill); and Umstead could be retooled as more of a park and less of a nature walk; I think your development ideas make sense. I also think that the other posters who said that the state would not part with the land for cheap are correct.

    Whatever the final solution, I hope that it is something which could generated a revenue stream that could be devoted to supporting the mentally ill in someway – although I do admit that the state has an awful record of raiding trust funds.

  • uncle fester Jun 15, 11:12 a.m.

    I agree with luv2surf_fish it should have some ballparks and a fishing lake for kids its a good idea

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