Raleigh gives up too much in the latest Dix park proposal

May 11, 2014 

It is a good faith effort at compromise. But city of Raleigh officials are offering too much to the state, 64 acres of the 308-acre property that was the home of Dorothea Dix Hospital, in exchange for the purchase of the remainder of the property for a park.

The chunk that would remain with the state is in the prime spot on the land, the high point, the one offering the most breathtaking views of downtown Raleigh. State officials say they need that property to house offices for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to the land the city would pay $51.26 million for the remaining 244 acres. An alternative also coming from the city would have Raleigh in a long-term lease for the property at $1.6 million a year, more than three times the original deal made with the administration of former Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Unfortunately, what was a very good deal for the state and the city was soured by politics. After much feuding with Perdue over issues and vetoes, Republicans in control of the General Assembly simply nixed the deal she arranged out of pure political spite. To his credit, Gov. Pat McCrory, also a Republican, put a sort of hold on everything to give the state and the city a chance to work things out.

With its latest offer, the city is now almost up to McCrory’s proposed sale price of $52 million.

The Dix property, with some serious needs for cleanup of environmental contamination, is surely not the one and only place that DHHS could be headquartered.

And state officials should see this deal as more than something to benefit the city of Raleigh, home of some of the state’s most-visited tourist sites and with one of the country’s best natural science museums (recently recognized as such in Washington). Many thousands of visitors come to the Capital City every year, and not just on school trips. Families from the far corners of the state come to Raleigh on weekend excursions. Parents bring their kids to school at one of the Triangle’s universities. And yes, visitors from all over the world come to Research Triangle Park.

A signature park, called by those who have long advocated for it a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” would therefore be of benefit to all the residents of North Carolina.

They’re right. Some 300 acres that border downtown Raleigh will not appear again. If this precious parcel is cut up, or if visitors are denied the prime vistas, Raleigh will have lost a grand opportunity.

State officials should try to be open-minded about keeping part of this property for the state. The case to be made is simply not strong enough when compared to the benefit of having such a grand open space for the people.

It really is time that the city and the state reached an agreement. A year has passed. The park has strong support among city leaders, and certainly deserves support from lawmakers and the governor. There are reasonable people having this discussion. They can do this. They really can.

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