click image to begin slideshow (renderings: Schenkel Shultz)
The North Carolina Department of Corrections is building a new mental health hospital and prison medical center—an expansion on the Boylan Heights side of Central Prison. This is the second largest active construction project in downtown Raleigh. With a projected budget approaching $160 million of state tax dollars, it’s a bit of a surprise that a project of this scale and impact would be unannounced to the surrounding neighborhood. The neighborhood association, as well as property owners within feet of the prison property, were never told of the construction plans—a violation of the city’s required notification process.
At this point workers have literally bulldozed the homeless encampment adjacent to the Montford Street bridge. They are 3/4 of the way through completely wiping out the natural vegetation and tree buffer that has existed for years between the neighborhood and the prison. Crews have also demolished the older vacant buildings that stood on the lot. Boylan Heights might have ultimately appreciated some of these changes, but neither the impact on the community nor residents’ opinions were taken into consideration. The laws that required that residents be informed about these changes were not upheld. At the very least a buffer should have been maintained during construction.
A few of the components: (totaling 365,775 square feet; for comparison the new Raleigh Convention Center is 500,000 sq ft)
* the consolidation of health care facilities within the prison system.
* 120 bed medical facility for the prison
* 220 bed state-run mental health hospital with a connector to the prison…
By size comparison the new hospital in Butner is 432 beds and the current Dix has 397
Boylan Heights residents are extremely upset. This project was essentially snuck by with no notification to residents of the neighborhood, or the general public, before construction began. However, it did go before City Council. During the site plan approval process, it was approved unanimously. The city has often discussed in its long term plans that the prison would relocate from downtown. These unexpected additions indicate otherwise. It’s here to stay.
Residents are also upset that they’re needlessly tearing down the natural buffer between the prison and the neighborhood (across the railroad tracks). The project is scheduled to be complete in 2011 or 2012 and this buffer could have helped shield the construction. Progress Energy workers at the site said that the much-discussed new substation is being built there on site adjacent to the tracks.
[UPDATED LOCATION] Boylan Heights residents have formed a committee that will discuss this issue at length during a meeting this coming Tuesday, July 22nd at 7:30pm 1300 Western Blvd, at the Central Prison Auditorium. Thomas Crowder and Mayor Meeker, as of today, have it on their calendars.
renderings: Schenkel Shultz
Construction on the old State Penitentiary/Central Prison began in 1870 on a 22 acre piece of land purchased from the Boylan family for $200 an acre. The first prisoners were held in a pinelog structure called “The Poles” while convicts constructed the permanent structure. The fortress-like structure was designed by Ohio architect Levi Scofield, and was finally finished in 1884 to the tune of $1.25 million.
When opened, the served as North Carolina’s only maximum security prison. It also housed several industries such as a paint shop, metal sign printing facilities for license plates and road signs, a shoe repair shop, and a small mattress factory.
By the 1950’s, the structure had begun to deteriorate, so decorative pieces such as the cupolas, turrets, and spires were removed. In the 1980’s, the rest of the structure was demolished.