Time to deal on Dix

August 2, 2013 

So strong was Republican Sen. Phil Berger’s animosity toward former Gov. Beverly Perdue that he couldn’t wait to scrap a forward-looking, reasonable, good-for-all lease arrangement for the Dorothea Dix Hospital property in downtown Raleigh. The deal would have allowed the city to proceed with a spectacular, 300-plus-acre park.

Berger, the president pro-tem of the Senate, pronounced the deal too sweet and wanted it tossed, presumably so the state could get more money. (In fact, the deal would have been worth $68 million to the state over 75 years, a reasonable arrangement.) The pro-tem has leaned increasingly toward the right wing of his party in recent months, and his clear anger toward Perdue caused him to take an extreme position on the park, as if he didn’t want the former governor to get credit for anything.

House members and Gov. Pat McCrory preferred a calmer approach, namely a waiting period while the city and the governor could re-examine the lease deal and draw up a new one. That’s now going to happen.

McCrory, who’s had an uneven first six months, has a chance to show some real leadership here. He can take his time, but as the former mayor of Charlotte, he understands better than most what a Central Park-type oasis close to the downtown could do for the city of Raleigh, which also happens to be the city of all North Carolinians, as their Capital City. McCrory can do a deal that’s good for the state and the city.

This park would be a destination area for the Capital City’s many visitors. It has unlimited possibilities, and some Republicans have talked about making the 40-acre Governor Morehead School property, which is directly across Western Boulevard from Dix, part of the deal. That would seem to be a good and promising arrangement.

Many citizens, and a good many legislators, have worked toward the goal of a Dix park and it’s a worthy goal indeed. This sort of land just doesn’t come available in urban areas, and intense development in Raleigh’s core, and on its outskirts, has made land more rare and with the better real estate market, more expensive.

Those who have not taken a ride to this property to catch a glimpse of the view that would be that of park visitors should do so. It is spectacular.

Negotiations have quieted down, and that’s good. Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane presumably will be involved and though she supported, rightly, the original deal, the mayor is a shrewd business person and will be adept in negotiations. And without the hue and cry on Jones Street, McCrory’s people should be able to negotiate in peace.

This deal needs to get done. The city can get started on planning, the state can start collecting its lease money, and the city can organize citizens who want input. Perhaps this waiting period also can reassure Berger that his nemesis, former Gov. Perdue, really isn’t trying to pull one over on him.

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