The experts, associated with the Urban Land Institute, recommended that the site be used for a 200-acre park, a new home for the Department of Health and Human Services and a retail town center near the state's Raleigh Farmers Market. The panel also suggested restoring single-family homes near the Dix campus and building new condominiums.
The proposed plan would also pay homage to Dorothea Dix with a momument. Officials with the Urban Land Institute said the property should be sold to the city of Raleigh for $40 million through tax-increment financing and $10 million should be raised from the private sector, with the money going to the mental health facility. Opinions about the group's recommendation were mixed.
"Do you have the will? I would like to come back to Raleigh and see what you have done, and I would like to see that you had the will," said Bill Lashbrook, a member of the Urban Land Institute panel.
"I have not seen or experienced that New York, Chicago, San Diego, St. Louis compromise any of Balboa Park, Forest Park or any of the parks to put condos inside of the park," said Raleigh business owner Nikki Mercer. "I still cannot understand ... why even with the Urban Land Institute in this room, there is still this fever to develop condos within the last 306 acres of the Dix property."
Some Raleigh advocates see promise, but still have concerns.
"I think its hard to mix together a public park and a neighborhood," said Dix park advocate Greg Poole.
Some worry the land will lose its identity with so many uses, and they question if it will be the attraction many believe the city needs.
"Great cities have great parks. Is Raleigh going to be a great city? That's what we have to walk away from here and decide," said Jay Spain with Friends of Dix Park.
The panel challenged people to walk away with a commitment to find common ground.
"You need to change your relationship with each other," said panel member Tom Murphy. "You need to become a functioning family and you need to recognize the property for what it is."
The panel also suggested that North Carolina State's Centennial Campus get involved by doing a land swap and have students build a sustainable neighborhood.
The panel had toured the site for the past few days and held roundtable discussions with local leaders and residents to determine the best option for the property.
"In the overall future of Raleigh, those 300 acres are very critical," said Sen. Vernon Malone, who co-chairs the Dorothea Dix Study commission that's fielded suggestions for the land.
The commission will consider the panel's findings and public comment before taking a recommendation to lawmakers in January.
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.