Local News

What Will Become of the Dorothea Dix Property?

Posted January 16, 2008 10:01 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2008 8:59 a.m. EST

— Dorothea Dix Hospital could close on May 1 and its patients be moved to a new mental-health facility in Butner. If that happens, hundreds of acres of rolling hills near downtown Raleigh will need a new purpose.

A legislative committee heard four recommendations Wednesday.

“We thoughtfully considered all the plans that come before, out of Dorothea Dix, and we examined them in very close detail,” consultant Jay Smith said.

Consultants hired by the state went over the four options. The first two keep the Department of Health and Human Services on the campus. The agency would take up 40 acres because other DHHS offices scattered throughout Wake County would move to the Dix property. There would also be green space and areas left for development.

Two other possibilities are moving the DHHS off the Dix campus, relocating it to either Blue Ridge Road or Garner Road. That would leave more room for a park, something Raleigh city leaders are pitching. The city has even offered to buy the land from the state.

“The only thing we do feel very strongly about is the state will maintain ownership of Dix property,” said Britt Cobb, secretary of the state Department of Administration.

Lawmakers said it is too soon to say which option is best for Raleigh.

“Those of us in the Wake County delegation are interested in long-term status of that property," Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, said.

“No one's probably going to get everything they want,” Cobb said.

The latest plans try to offer a little something for everyone.

The Dix recommendations are part of a master plan for state facilities. It is intended as a guide for the governor, council of state, and lawmakers, but it can change.

Dix and John Umstead Hospital in Butner were expected to close in February and merge into the $120 million Central Regional Hospital, but there were construction and patient concerns that the plan was moving too fast.

A recent internal review found 30 types of hazards in the new facility, some of which could allow patients to hang themselves. Extending the transfer completion date until May 1 gives state officials more time to ensure the hospital is safe for patients, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton said.