One of the most anticipated parts of the Dix Park plan has been unveiled.
A boutique hotel, a food and beer hall, botanical garden and a concert venue are now officially proposed uses for the future Dorothea Dix Park. The list also includes play areas, gardens, athletic courts and trails.
The plan is to create and then bridge two very different portions of the park: one a 21st century, bustling place to visit, and the other, an escape into nature in the middle of the city.
Turning months of community engagement into park programming — what you will actually be able to do there — was the theme of the fourth Dix Park community meeting Thursday at the Raleigh Union Station. The 308-acre park is just outside downtown Raleigh.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the New York-based design firm that Raleigh hired to plan the park, led the audience through the different areas of the park.
Planners and designers have divided the park into sections, outlining what could be in each one.
People can provide feedback and see Thursday’s presentation at dixpark.org Here are highlights:
Planners say the center section will be the “civic heart of the park.” It’s where most of the buildings are now, though about three-fourths of them would be removed. The others would be renovated for programs. For instance, All Faiths Chapel could host meetings, weddings and lectures.
One of the biggest surprises may be the transformation of the former psychiatric hospital into a boutique hotel to help offset the park’s costs.
“One of the biggest revenue generators for a park like this across the country is to put hotels or residential building on it,” Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane has said. “And because we have this huge hospital with small rooms, it naturally makes you think, how could you use this as a hotel? But it still has to be part of the park. You can’t just plop something in here to make money.”
The Ridge could also include sports courts, covered pavilions, an incubator and office space, a visitor center and administration office, gardens, an open plaza, a food and beer hall, an interactive fountain and rooftop dining. A one-mile path around The Ridge would help connect it to other parts of the park.
This section is wedged between the large field on left and The Ridge on the right. Its main attraction would be an outdoor concert venue for 5,000 to 7,000 people. The amphitheater would be framed by an elevated trestle walk that connects the Meadow to the pedestrian loop around the Ridge. The venue would have parking lots, a concession area, brewery and a performance practice space.
This area could also include a dog park, sports courts and gym.
The proposed master plan calls for moving Rocky Branch Creek away from Western Boulevard, widening the creek from 30 to 100 feet and creating a water destination. It would include a land bridge over Western Boulevard to nearby Pullen Park, a fishing pond, a small boat pool, nature paths, a connection to nearby greenways and a “hangout lawn.” One of the biggest draws for this section would be the ability to play in the creek and see animals and plants in their habitat.
The Downtown Gateway
This is the sliver that runs along Lake Wheeler Road with the Fuller Heights neighborhood across the street. Seemingly geared toward families, this section would include a water playground, a cook-out zone with grills and places for picnics, and a toddler play area. There’s also space for future buildings. Anna Grace Fitzgerald, a landscape architect student at N.C. State University, said lots of exciting community-based decisions influenced the proposed uses of the park, but she is concerned about the pressure the park could place on the Fuller Heights area.
“It’s a vulnerable community, and the attraction of Dix Park could really impact property values and displace individuals,” she said.
This section of the park is next to the creek and includes the popular sledding hill and soccer fields. Those two features that already draw people to Dix Park will remain. The Grove would also include numerous trees, a dog park, nature centers, botanical gardens, a “hammock glade” and more water features like a “constructed seep” or small waterfall.
It’s exactly what it sounds like, but bigger than what’s currently there. Under the proposed plan the Meadow would stretch all the way from the State Farmer’s Market to the land bridge over Western Boulevard connecting to Pullen Park. At the end of the field toward the farmer’s market, the plan is to create a pond and grotto, a cave with a look out, that will connect to a trestle pedestrian bridge that spans across the valley. The Meadow is also the area that includes the cemetery. The plan is to restore and enhance it.
A final community meeting will be held in February to unveil the master plan, which the City Council will discuss and eventually vote on. In the meantime, people can comment at neighborland.com/dixpark
The City Council also has a number of work sessions planned including one set for Oct. 29. One of the meetings will focus on funding plans and revenue options. Raleigh bought the park from the state for $52 million in 2015. The city raised the property tax rate by 1 cent per $100 of assessed property value to help cover the cost of the park in 2016.
The estimated cost of the proposed programs were not available at the community meeting but is expected by the end of the year.