Perdue touts 'integral step' toward Dix park

The report from last May uses figures from the mid-2000s through 2010.

mgarfield@newsobserver.comFebruary 16, 2012 

— Gov. Bev Perdue on Wednesday announced the findings of an appraisal done last year on the Dorothea Dix campus, the state-owned property that advocates hope to transform into an urban park.

But two key park supporters said the conclusions are outdated because they rely on land deals that occurred before the real estate collapse.

The prospective value of the land, based on a "fully rebounded market," is $86 million, according to the appraisal by Raleigh-based Worthy & Wachtel. However, the property's current market value is $60 million, the appraisal found.

Perdue said Wednesday that she has directed the state Department of Administration to seek a tenant representative to help with eventually moving the 1,300 state employees on the Dix campus to other offices.

In an announcement, Perdue called the moves "an integral step toward ultimately converting the Dix campus into a public park."

The governor also called for possible consolidation of facilities for all N.C. Department of Health and Human Services employees. "The process will take considerable time to complete, but this is an important step in turning this beautiful downtown property into a public park for the enjoyment of all North Carolinians," she said.

Former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker said the appraisal reflects outdated figures. "What is needed is an appraisal based on current sales after the economy changed in 2008 or 2009," Meeker said. "This appraisal is based on sales some time ago."

The appraisal, dated May 20, 2011, examines real estate deals from the mid-2000s through 2010.

Dix's size and unique location make it difficult to judge its potential value. Until now, the State Property Office had never appraised the property.

The campus represents a rare large chunk of undeveloped land near downtown, where people have paid millions of dollars per acre.

Park backers have urged the state to do a new appraisal, said Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican.

"Maybe it's good to go ahead and get it out and have some discussion about it," he said. "I think it'd be better to get a current appraisal. Then you have some reliable facts to make a decision."

In 2007, Meeker made a formal offer for the city to buy the Dix campus from the state for $10.5 million, but the offer left several leading lawmakers unimpressed.

At the time, Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, said, "the number should probably be closer to $50 million."

On Wednesday, Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican and lead budget writer, said legislators will need to weigh in.

"There are lots and lots of questions about the appraisal itself," he said. "There's simply a lot of questions that need to be asked and some very detailed planning before any final decisions are made."

No quick resolution

As for reaching a resolution in the 11 months left in Perdue's term, Dollar said, "This is more than the tenure of any one public official, whether it's a mayor or a governor."

Dollar also said the legislature will need to see details about how to handle the current health and human services operations on the site and what to do with any money from the sale.

"The site was originally given to promote mental health," he said. "We need to do everything we can to stay true to that purpose."

The 150-year-old Dix state psychiatric hospital has been scheduled to close. The state opened a new hospital in Butner as part of a broader effort to reform North Carolina's system of psychiatric hospitals.

Staff writer John Frank contributed to this story.

Garfield: 919-836-4952

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service