Making Raleigh’s Central Park - Let’s Make Dix Happen

Making Raleigh’s Central Park - Let’s Make Dix Happen

November, 28, 2012, by Khaner

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The effort to turn the campus at Dorothea Dix into a regional, Destination Park has been in the works for years, nearly a decade. The campus overlooks downtown Raleigh and surrounding areas, and is surrounded by 306 acres of historic buildings, trails, and green space – a perfect venue to create Raleigh’s Central Park.

View from Dix Hill on the Campus

Destination Parks can quickly be defined as large parks that attract significant tourism to an area. Think Central Park in NYC, Forest Park in St. Louis, Hyde Park in London, Savannah's Forsyth Park,etc. The impact of parks like these can be seen from development around the park’s periphery, dollars from visiting tourists, to simply providing a place of relaxation or somewhere to exercise.

In 2003, the NC General Assembly voted to relocate the mentally ill services located at Dix, to Butner, NC. The move was made in large part to upgrade the quality of care mentally ill patients would receive, since Dix was built about 150 years ago, and the new facility would simply have new technology and more upgrades.

With news of Dix Campus’ eventual closing, the rush to use up the campus began. There were plenty of mixed-use facilities, shopping mall, office park…proposals, but one stuck, and one went the distance.

Led by small but highly-committed citizen groups – Dix Visionaries, Dix 306, and Friends of Dorothea Dix – each team shared the same vision of preserving the entire campus, and with it, creating Raleigh’s own Central Park.

Led by Dix Visionaries and its chairman, Greg Poole Jr., the groups spent years meeting with the Governor, North Carolina’s Council of State members, leaders at the General Assembly, city officials, and business leaders throughout the Southeast. Almost everyone – across both parties – agreed that turning this tract of land into a Destination Park when the hospital and offices there closed, was the best idea. Even the land developers changed their minds from building on the 306 acres, to wanting to build around it (knowing this would be more valuable).

After a decade of meetings, hemming and hawing, ‘needing more studies,’ and so on, the goal seemed close at hand with Governor Perdue recently putting the issue on the Council of State’s agenda. Lame duck move / wanting to build a legacy at the n’th hour? Sure. But since we live in an era where one side can’t let the other ‘win’ with a good idea, the effort is wavering.

That a political party committed to letting the private sector loose, would block a move led by private citizens that could bring in untold millions in the form of donations, development, and tourism is ironic. That these same people have sat and told us to our face they are with us, only to find now they aren’t – is just plain crap.

Do something. Visit and find out more. Contact our Council of State members from there, or even donate a dollar to the cause.

What do you think Raleigh’s Central Park could be? Make it happen.

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, Other posts by Khaner.


Dix VisionariesDix 306Dix ParkGovernor Beverly PerdueRaleigh Central ParkGreg Poole Jr.


  • Esteban Colberto
    11/28 07:09 PM

    So lets talk about this “political party”. That would be the Tea Party, umm, I mean “Republican” party. The same party whose mouthpiece, Randy Savage, called for the murder, on the radio, of governor Purdue last year which lead to her decision not to run again.

    The same party that made it illegal to do risk assessment on the outer banks, banning, predicting sea level rise because it would increase insurance costs on rental properties that sit on the beach.

    The same party who tried to defund early intervention around the children of disabilities act in the middle of the night last year. Had they done that, parents with autistic children would be forced to quit there jobs, lose their houses, and become welfare recipients in order to qualify to send their kids to public school and get get the desperate and costly therapy needed. Let alone, all children who are less than perfect.

    I will do everything I can to fight anyone that says the word “public” is bad. To fight a group of people who would rather go down in blaze of glory than admit that their culture is no longer one of supremacy.

  • Aaron
    11/28 09:07 PM

    The whole prospect of ‘public sector’ versus ‘private sector’ is in effect creating a soft class war. You know what Republican ‘patriots’ love to accuse Obama and other reasonable figureheads across the table for when they demand public sector protections and higher taxes on top earners. This whole Dix deal seems like a perfect bridge to be built between the two opposing sides quite honestly. A new public park and those pretty little higher property values that…they…clamor for.

  • mike
    11/29 08:17 AM

    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills that developing the land into townhomes and such is even a consideration.  I mean seriously?

  • Aaron
    11/29 03:57 PM

    Developing some of it for homes or businesses would be nice. But not all of it. This of course being my opinion. I’m excited and nervous about this for sure.

  • Djsaugatuck
    11/29 04:17 PM

    I realize the Tea Party can take crazy stances, but this feel like more of a Bev Purdue blunder.  She may be the worst executive in American politics today.  She just can’t seem to take a stand and make strong points to get things done.  Ever.

    The issue with moving forward may fall right into the lap of the Tea Party.  Nobody seems to be able to agree on a cost and how it will be paid for.  The city will lease it from the state, but they asses the land for way less than the state.  How will the city pay for it and maintains it?

    New York’s Central Park is a poor comparison.  A much Bette Rome would be San Francisco’s Pesidio.  It was an old base that closed and it is right on The Bay south of The Golden Gate.  It now is both public land and a revenue steam by leasing old buildings.  It has not been the cash cow it aw thought to be, but they a effectively using the old buildings.  What will happen to all the large offices and buildings at Dix? 

    It is at least a $40 million piece of land and after years of rhetoric and political maneuvers, there really isn’t a complete plan to make it work as a park.  While I don’t agree with those who want to build condos or a development, I am super frustrated with Democrates who just can’t present logical solutions. Frustrating!

  • john b
    12/01 09:26 PM

    I like 100 acres NC state and residential- 100 acres farmers market and retail and 100 acres for the park(including disc golf).

  • JFR
    12/02 09:27 PM

    What a great opportunity to bash republicans!  I hope Purdue gets her way.  That way all the land will be completely devoted to a park and rely on tax revenue to help maintain it, so all Raleigh residents taxes will go up.  I can’t wait!  Since there will be so much land for tax payer dollars to maintain, nothing about the park will be that great.  OMG! republicans are soooo stupid.

  • Artie
    12/04 10:50 AM

    We won.  It’s a Great Day!

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