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NCSU Dean Urges Putting Dix Land Before Buildings

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Much of the talk about how to reuse the 300 acres of the soon-to-close Dorothea Dix Hospital property has been about what to build—residential? retail? offices? park?

Determining what to do with an immense piece of prime Raleigh real estate is a decision with a lasting impact, and one voice is calling for more attention to the land itself than to whatever might go above it.

The hospital land, blocks away from the central part of the city, is a place to breathe, in the view of Marvin J. Malecha, dean of NC State University's College of Design.
“The first thing we have to do is step way back,” Malecha said Thursday.

Malecha, an architect, has seen all the plans for the Dorothea Dix property. He said he has followed the conflicts. His conclusion is that focusing of the land is more important than focusing on what to build there.

“Our city needs a destination park and [to] think about how weave into the ecosystem, region and to the life of the community and how do we sustain it, how do we bring it to life,” Malecha said. “The greatest possibility here is for us to connect the city into its natural landscape.”

Development to support the park could work on the land or around it, he added.

Many lawmakers say the land can be a great park as along as getting to that point does not ignore other stake holders, such as the mental health community.

“How wonderful the park is, I think, depends not as much on the legislature as on the local commitment to make it wonderful,” State Rep. Deborah Ross said.

"Wonderful" for Ross, who lives on the edge of Dix, means finding solutions not just for park land but for all the state offices and the historic buildings on site.

“I think it’s a very important decision on several levels,” she said.

The levels include those who think not building would be missing a unique opportunity.

“We don't want to see it irresponsibly used—or should I say underutilized, when it's got all this capacity,” said Greg Poole of the Dix Visionaries.

The leaders of the Dix Study Commission are drafting legislation to take to lawmakers. They have a list of guidelines from which to to work.

A decision on the property could come during this legislative session. The hospital is slated to move late this year or early in 2008 to a new Central Region Psychiatric Hospital being built in Butner.



Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Mark Simpson, Photographer
Ron Gallagher, Web Editor

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