McCrory wants Raleigh, state to share Dix - WNCN: News, Weather

McCrory wants Raleigh, state to share Dix

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The Umstead Complex The Umstead Complex
The Lake Wheeler Road Complex The Lake Wheeler Road Complex

Gov. Pat McCrory says the Dorothea Dix Campus "can be shared" by the City of Raleigh and the Department of Health and Human Services.

McCrory has primarily remained quiet on the subject of the Dix property, and in a one-on-one interview with WNCN, the governor only offered that a new deal would be a "win-win" for both the city and the state.

In December, the Council of State, under Gov. Bev Perdue, signed a contract to lease the Dorothea Dix property to Raleigh for $500,000 per year for 75 years with a 24-year renewal. However, from the beginning, Republican lawmakers raised questions about the deal and argued the state did not get fair market value for the property.

As a result, the state Senate voted 29-21 to revoke the lease and pursue a new lease that would allow the city to develop around 200 acres of the Dix property's 325 acres of land "at a fair market value" for use as a destination park.

The new bill is now in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee, and it remains unclear whether the state will uphold its lease with the city or pursue a new lease that would reserve a portion of the land for use by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"What we're attempting to do is find a 'win-win' situation," McCrory said Thursday, "where we can have a park and also meet the needs of future mental health patients and Health and Human Services."

McCrory explained the Dix land is "great piece of property that can be shared," a notion shared in the vision of the 2007 Government Facilities Master Plan, which called for mixed-use of the land.

"A 'win-win' looks like where we can have both a great park and we can also have possibly a future mental health center and offices that are desperately needed for Health and Human Services," McCrory said.

Advocates of a destination park, however, have argued that an open-space park and hospital cannot co-exist on the land. ," Greg Poole Jr., with Dix Visionaries, said the best use for property is the full use of the land for the park.

"I don't think the delivery of any kind of health -- mental or otherwise -- needs to be in the park," Poole said.

Poole said he thinks lawmakers don't understand the depth of support the Park has, although Dix Visionaries "remain encouraged that the state and the city share a common goal for the use of this property."

"We met our financial goals in seven weeks," he said. "We pledged to raise $3 million in seven weeks, and we met that goal. It just shows you the people of North Carolina are behind this project. They're ready to go."

Although only intended as a guide for lawmakers, the 2007 State Government Facilities Master Plan -- prepared by O'Brien/Atkins Associates for the state Department of Administration -- calls for the establishment of five districts on land holdings within Wake County.

The districts identified are:

  • Academic Agricultural Research District
  • Academic Core and Business Development District
  • Administrative District
  • Research and Development District
  • Health Care and Wellness Center District

The heart of the Health Care and Wellness Center District is the Dorothea Dix Campus, which the plan cites as "the state's historic home for mental health services."

"There is sufficient land to accommodate the space needs while allowing for land to be reserved beyond this report's planning horizon. By commissioning this study, the State has created a tool that guides the planning of its physical resources over the next 15 years," the 2007 plan reads.

In accordance with Section 8 of the plan, the Health Care and Wellness Center District would "provide the facilities necessary to support the State's commitment to the mental health and well-being of its citizens" as well as "preserve open space, preserve historic structures and create new public recreation areas."

"The State of North Carolina should remain the owner of the property and continue its stewardship of the land. However, the State should evaluate partnership opportunities for re-development and preservation of campus assets," the plan says.

"Large areas of public park lands should be established within the Dorothea Dix Campus. Both passive and active recreation areas should be planned for the park areas."

The plan calls for one of two land-use concepts that designate approximately 200 or more acres for use as park land and open space. The Umstead Complex concept places the DHHS complex along Umstead Drive, while the Lake Wheeler Road Complex places the DHHS complex along Biggs Drive.

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