Hundreds of people packed into public meetings last year to discuss what to do with the 315 acres once the psychiatric facility closes in 2007. Among the ideas are turning it into a park or a botanical garden, as well as developing high-end apartments and office space.
At least five proposals are up for discussion. Each includes open space for a park, but the question is just how much open space to preserve. The plans vary from preserving 167 acres to the entire property.
"We can have a park in North Carolina that's world class," said well-known developer Greg Poole.
The Friends of Dix Park are fighting to keep the entire property as open space. The group pleaded its case to lawmakers on Tuesday. The "Friends" say any development would detract from the natural beauty of the property.
"Go into Central Park, you don't have people living in the park, you don't have business and industry, you don't have hospitals, it's peaceful, it's serene," Poole said.
LandDesign, a company based in Charlotte, has been hired by the state and city to design a plan. Representatives put forth two plans Tuesday, both which involve mixed-use developments that could include a park, residential space, offices and stores.
"Wouldn't it be a wonderful concept to have a great new urban neighborhood essentially within what is otherwise a park setting?" asked Brad Davis, president of LandDesign.
Davis said currently there are not enough people living near Dix to support a large park.
"What we have found is in order for parks, city parks, to become great urban parks, they require a very dense, very strong residential population within a five-minute walk," Davis said.
Ultimately, developers believe the decision will be a balance of environmental and economic interests.
"My vision is the long vision, long-term vision for Raleigh, just like the people who laid this city out, just like the people who laid out the Research Triangle Park," Poole said. "Big vision."
The commission will continue the hearing on Wednesday.