The city is about to embark on a seven-month journey to find the perfect consulting partner to help plan a “destination” downtown park.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and the Dix Park executive planning committee had their inaugural meeting Thursday. Their first order of business: approve a schedule for hiring a consulting firm to turn the 308-acre property off of Western Boulevard into something special.
The planning committee has no specific ideas for the site, which Raleigh bought from the state last year for $52 million.
But in early October, the group will begin soliciting offers for a consultant. After reviewing applications, taking consulting teams on tours of Dix and holding multiple interviews with them, committee members hope to select a partner by the end of March.
“We feel that with the scale and complexity of this project, it would behoove us to spend some time with them and ... go through a thorough process,” said Kate Pearce, a city planner organizing the effort.
Nearly a dozen consulting firms, including some from outside the United States, already have reached out to the city to express interest in the process, Pearce said.
The Dix Park Conservancy, a nonprofit formed by local business leaders and philanthropists to raise money for the park, has set aside $2 million to help pay for the consultant.
The committee plans to accept consulting offers for a month. It plans to review applications in late November. In December, it plans to hold preliminary interviews and whittle its list down to a handful of semi-finalists. It then plans to ask semi-finalists for more information about their work and vision for Dix Park.
In January, the committee plans to review semi-finalists’ pitches and select finalists. It plans to hold final interviews in February and enter contract negotiations with its preferred consulting firm in March.
The committee’s plans are tentative. Some members of the executive committee won’t be able to attend every meeting.
Capitol Broadcasting CEO Jim Goodmon and N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson, for instance, said they may not be able to take consultants on tours through the Dix property the week of Dec. 12.
“I think that’s graduation week,” Woodson said.
“I’m going to Antarctica,” Goodmon said, to the surprise and amusement of other committee members.
In the meantime, the committee plans to visit New York City in September and St. Louis in October to see local parks and talk to planners. It’s unclear how much the trips will cost the city.