Artistic license

December 25, 2012 

It is a rather artful move, this decision by the N.C. Council of State, to give 34 prime acres on the Blue Ridge Road corridor in West Raleigh to the N.C. Museum of Art Foundation, which is the fundraising arm of the state-run museum.

The property was under the control of the state Department of Cultural Resources already, but now the foundation, led by respected local developer Mason Williams, will plot the future. Now, Williams said, the foundation will study options for getting developers to lease and build on the property, which will still be owned by the foundation itself.

The Polk Youth Center prison closed in 1997. It was a rather melancholy place for museum visitors to pass on the way to the long-expanding, prestigious state museum, which has boomed in prominence under its leader, Dr. Larry Wheeler. The museum is prized for its interaction with public schools and its easy access to visitors.

Its status as an asset to the state will be enhanced if something creative can be done with the Polk site.

Planners will have to be careful, of course, that any developments are suitable, not garish and not crowded on the site. That section of Blue Ridge Road, close to Rex Hospital, now has a lot of offices related to the medical field. The area to be developed likely will have more variety, and certainly there will be many developers interested.

It’s right, however, that ownership is retained by the foundation. As Williams said, the property is likely to become more valuable through the years. That ownership also means the foundation can limit and shape development.

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