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ericurbanite

Dorothea Dix Property

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This is my first revisit to this topic in a while, so I might be a little out of sync, but...

As much as folks like to dream about a huge park or a perfectly planned urban environment or a hybrid of the two...ultimately the needs of the mental health treatment community outweigh all our dreams at this point.....the community based approach has failed utterly according to the article...having these beds is much better than having these people turned out on the streets.

Unfortunately, this exposes a major failure of Wake's HHS Dept, in that they have (unfairly) been using Dix as an inpatient mental health facility for years, even though it belongs to the state, and the county should have been planning for it's own facility for years. This new lease agreement is pretty much an admission of that. Somehow, they are just now getting around to dealing with the facility needs.

You know guys, the two uses are not mutually exclusive -- park and medical facility. In fact, one of America's great parks -- Balboa Park in San Diego -- still has the Naval Medical Center right across Park Blvd. from El Prado, which is the strand of museums, theaters, the arboretum and aviary, Spreckels Organ, and most of the signature pieces for which the park is known other than the San Diego Zoo. The main hospital at Navy is pretty much the same size as the main Dix Hospital facility. It is a stately white Spanish Colonial structure that, if you weren't a local, might not even notice it was a hospital. As it turns out, being surrounded by Balboa Park is kind of a therapy in itself for the recovering vets, being able to walk a fascinating landscape right outside the front door. I think some kind of similar situation could evolve at Dix, with medical and park funding comingled together to provide maintenance for the entire facility.

San Diego Balboa Park

Now, having said all of that, I realize that there are some significant differences. Balboa has a military hospital. Nobody is afraid of a bunch of sailors. On the other hand, Dix is a psychiatric hospital. Most soccer moms are probably pretty loathe to take their kids for an afternoon in the park by the crazyhouse. The stigma is all bunk, yes, but we would be a little naive to think that quite a few people wouldn't think that way. So, in that light, I would suggest that Dix could still be used, but with a little re-arranging of the mission there. Maybe some county outpatient services and DHHS offices could stay there. Since, I would assume that, most of the heavy functions of Dix are going to Butner, this seems to me logical.

I guess I was assuming before that the decision had already been made to move all of Dix's functions to Butner. Why not keep some DHHS functions there if they want, but it seems to me that if the State deeds the property over to the city or an independent park district, with contractual stipulations included for DHHS to remain there in specified terms, the city can develop the park into their "destination park" (whatever that means), develop an income stream for the upkeep of the park, relieving the burden of the groundskeeping from the State, and giving the State a revenue source from the purchase as well.

I still think the city would be wise to at least develop a corner of it, with at least a five-star hotel to serve NCSU's Centennial Campus and downtown to provide a stream of revenue to keep up the park so that it doesn't have to be commercialized to the tacky nth just to make ends meet. As in, "The Blockbuster Pavilion Bandstand presented by Chevy Tahoe". Plus, I'm willing to bet that people will pay big bucks to overlook a place that spectacular from a 21st floor window.

Edited by vitaviatic

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A Legislative Oversight Committee is holding a public hearing today on Dix. Despite the efforts of the various park groups and the offer from the city to by the land for a park, it doesn't appear the state is ready to let it go anytime soon. This debate could go on for years, unfortunately and as I see it, the only way to move things forward is continued pressure/fundraising from local groups and a new stance by the next Governor... JMO.

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If the all-park fundraisers had raised a signficant amount of money, why haven't they announced anything by now? A plege of that money, either to be added to the city's $10.5 M offer, or to be used for deconstruction and/or maintenance, could build support and momentum. Comments from NC State and/or the Farmer's Market/Department of Agriculture would help shape the future there as well.

The state's current stance of holding onto the land is better than their previous stance of selling it wholsale to the highest bider ASAP. The county does need many mental health beds, but why can't those go to new facilities being built near Rex and/or Wake Med's existing facilities (Blue Ridge, New Bern/440, Cary, Falls of Neuse) or new facilities elsewhere? If the Dorothea Dix will requires mental facilites there, build better facilities close to the Lake Wheeler corridor to allow easy I-40 and Western Blvd access.

DHHS offices could be moved downtown, transitioning between North Blount and the CBD. Maybe move the govenor's mansion to the Dix property? That would free another downtown block up for development, and the current site is used more for meetings and parties vs. an actual residence anyway. The north half of that block could be returned to use as a "sqaure" as first planned, to go with Moore and Nash.

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NAOIP, a commercial development trade group, favors a new Dix park.

The Triangle chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, a trade group representing the commercial real estate industry, is supporting the position that a major park at Dix would be a priceless amenity to the region. It says a park would attract locals and tourists and create new opportunity on the park's periphery without diluting Raleigh's emerging city center.

...

"Their opportunities come on the eve and post-designating this land a park," he says. "Great parks are a magnet for the development on the periphery."

Property bordering the Dix campus would be coveted for buildings that would fence the oasis of open space, leaving plenty for developers to do.

"It's the best piece of dirt in this area by far," says Dave Lindner, president of the NAIOP chapter. "But this transcends developer interest and short-term financial gains.

"This is the only time in the evolution of the region that we're going to get this opportunity. We can't squander it."

I still think nobody is addressing the most unstated underlying assumption of the all-park plan: the Caraleigh neighborhood and blighted area SW of downtown (near S. Sounders) will be completely redeveloped and gentrified beyond all recognition, and all of the financial benefits will go to Boylan Heights and NCSU.

dix6_overview_hires.jpg

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^^^ Where did all that water come from in those renderings??? Is somebody trying to create a chain lake?

That is just a result of activating the environmental features layer on the Wake County GIS site. (one of those layers anyway)

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There are a lot of "wetlands" down that way, especially on Centennial, but only Lake Raleigh is a visible water feature.

Also, the N&O is reporting that state is keeping Dix open two months longer while they work out the problems in the Butner replacement facility. So it will be open until at least May, and maybe longer depending on the fixes required.

This is independent of Wake County's request to keep it open while it figures out how to provide the number of beds required for local/short term mental health care.

I still think *part* of the campus should continue to be a mental health facility (with support offices, etc. nearby) if Wake Med, Rex, UNC, Duke, and other providers can't step up to the plate. The hospital doesn't need *all* the land, and Raleigh should re-offer the $10 million (or more with private contributions) for the other 200+ acres of "expendable" land like the Grove, the soccer fields/big mound, etc.

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Its amazing that people want to keep this facility open in the middle of a city. The people being housed there are not a couple of depressed folks that need to get meds once in awhile. Some of these patients are murderers that occasionally wander off site (Wendall Williamson). He was found meandering Raleigh a couple of years ago. It seems like an issue of the inmates running the asylum (literally!).

Edited by DanRNC

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That is just a result of activating the environmental features layer on the Wake County GIS site. (one of those layers anyway)

Educated guess that the blue in the Dix306 map represents (100-yr) floodway boundaries and not actual surface waters. The 306 folks have long maintained that a natural connection from Dix to the Lake Johnson/Centennial/Walnut Creek Greenway would create a large network of open space that would build on conservation efforts that have already taken place in S/SW Raleigh. I forgot Pullen Park too. This was a major knock against the ULI plan--that it sealed off the Grove area. I've questioned some of the motives of the 306 crowd and wonder how they plan to deal with gentrification that would certainly take place in low-income Caraleigh, but this aspect of the 306 plan actually makes a lot of sense from a natural system connectivity standpoint. It's not something many of us think of, but one most citizens tend to enjoy and appreciate when they have it.

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With recent annexations to and beyond 540, the "middle" of Raleigh is now north of the 440/Capitol Blvd intersection.

For every Wendall Willamson, how many other detainees haven't gone anywhere? Who knows? If he was still considered a *current* threat, I think/hope he would not have been able to get outside any structure unsupervised.

There is little to no "city" around the Dix property, with South Saunders, I-40, Central Prision, the former city dump, NC State/Centennial Campus, and the Farmer's Market making it almost an island.

Is it an island of tranquility and nature? Somewhat yes, along the greenway and close to Centennial. But including the rest of the Dix land as one big park "just because" is not a good use of the land.

That being said, if Central Prison and Dix were moved together off I-540 south of the "new" US 64 near Knightdale, that would free up a lot of land and give the opportunity to create new/state of the art facilities (hopefully with better contractors than the Butner hospital).

And the wording of the Doretha Dix document/grant that gave the land to the state for the mental facilities does need to be addressed before any serious plans are undertaken.

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As a part of the state govt master plan update (I think), yet another consultant is studying Dix. (I can't help but wonder how many hundreds of thousands of dollars has being spent on trying to decide what to do.) Apparently, there are 4 plans, two of which have DHHS on Dix with some park land and development. and the other two would have DHHS on Garner Rd or Blue Ridge Rd... all would have the state owning the land, apparently.

I wish someone would step in and do something about downtown being in the mix. I would be short sighted to place DHHS on any of these sites IMO, when downtown underutilized state property exists and is serviceable by transit, walkable, etc. It sounds like Dix park--or 306 acres of it--may be out of the picture too.

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So, I was traveling recently, and one of the things I noticed was some of the nice botanic gardens very near the city centers... now maybe it's a very British sort of arrangement to create these gardens close to town (it's very common), but many of the gardens were fantastically executed and to me, they added a nice element to those cities, beyond just a simple park.

So, way back when the state was taking public comment on what to do with Dix, I recall there was a group pushing for botanic gardens at Dix. I would say that in addition to a more standard park area with walking trails at the Grove (oak trees overlooked downtown), I want to see a botanic garden added to the mix (though not it's entirety). Not only that, but the park's proximity to NCSU would lend itself to a natural partnership with the school to co-develop the landscape architecture and select plant species. Why not relocate the NCSU Raulston Arboretum to the Dix site? This would immediately become a prime location that would yield many more visitors and in conjunction with the Grove Park and greenway connections to downtown, Centennial Campus, the multimodal transit/rail hub, the farmers market, and perhaps a medium density mixed use development on the Lake Wheeler Rd flank, would create an ideal mix of access to all sorts of activities and amenities within a close area.

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The most beautiful and vibrant city I have ever been to, Seville, Spain has two large gardens and a very large park near its center, and - oddly enough - caddy corner from the University of Seville. It must be a European thing. I would love to see the Dix property feature a public garden.

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^

Indeed. I've seen gardens all over the Northern half of Europe. When you get to the Mediterranean areas (especially Italy and Greece), however, botanical gardens are far & few between. Most everything is plazas with fountains and statues.

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In 1907 the Boylan Heights street grid was laid out. From that date forward our City began its long metamorphosis into a disconnected low density suburban smallville. The result of this change in the proximity of Dix makes still wonder exactly how to deal with whatever gets done there....continued State use, expanded State use, Park, Dense development , or Botanical Garden. It just seems like it will never plug properly into the rest of the City with confining belts of western blvd and Centennial Parkway around it. I would love a botanical garden. But folks would still need to drive there. A few hundred live walking distance now. Western has no nearby bus stops. Centennial has bus stops but no buses ( :sick: ). South Saunders connects to nothing helpful, the Dawson McDowell connector flings people out of town as fast as they can break the 35 mph speed limit and Boylan Heights would never allow Boylan Ave to actually be open directly into Dix. Its a beautiful spot. I am still not sure how best to work with it.

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Why not relocate the NCSU Raulston Arboretum to the Dix site?

Because, to the apparent dread of many on this board, Raleigh is and always will be more than just a downtown (which still is barely a downtown). The West Raleigh complex of 5000 acre Umstead State Park/state fairgrounds/165 acre Museum Art Park/Raulston Arboretum etc. etc. makes this area a destination for the entire Triangle, and many points beyond. There is zero advantage to NC State to move its world-class arboretum, particulary now that it has such a lovely education center. If only the art museum had been built downtown, as many now lament, there would never have been an artpark, which seems to be very popular right where it is.

I think I recall that somewhere who knows how many pages back in this thread someone had the idea of moving the Art Museum to Dix. Instead of trying to steal the best of Raleigh and relocating it where it doesn't fit, how about coming up with something original for Dix?

I concede that the arena should have been built on Centennial Campus, but there's no moving that now.

Jones123 above gets it - there are neighborhoods in Brier Creek that are more dense, more walkable, and more multi-use than Boylan Heights. The Dix property is beautiful just the way it is. If it's not good enough for some, with a little original thought and a good bit of restraint it could be transformed into one of the world's greatest parks. Try to cram a botanic garden and a giant ferris wheel and an ice rink and an aquarium and whatever else anyone in the city can dream up, and it will become so much less than the sum of its parts.

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Why does it have to be "stealing" to relocate a public facility to perhaps a more ideal location where it could be enjoyed by many more people? You might call it stealing, and I might call it enhancing. How many people go to the Raulston Arboretum in it's current location tucked away on Beryl Rd? Rather than speculating, I'd like to know how it rates vs peer gardens in Chapel Hill, etc. It just seems to be underused and in a less than ideal location. While you make a good argument W/R/T Umstead and the Museum Park, Raulston is in no way connected to those facilities and they aren't promoted as such (that I know of).

Unlike a ferris wheel or aquarium, a botanic garden fits nicely within the concept of Dix being a natural oasis within an urban setting and would be walkable from downtown and its many attractions, drawing more visitors to the park and nearby residences and businesses via walking trails. To the "zero advantage" comment, I would argue that if they could generate several times more visitors per year, that would provide a very nice advantage to the school, generate more revenue for the garden itself and promote their programs more effectively.

Maybe NCSU wouldn't be interested at all, but given the unique opportunities presented in that location, it seems like a good opportunity to take advantage of the synergy between the state/university and the city to look into developing a garden at Dix.

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^^to be clear, I was not saying there is anything wrong with Boylan Heights as it is, only that it does not lend itself to integrating Dix into the City proper due to its street layout. It certainly is denser, more walkable and more mixed use that anything in Brier Creek other than some apartments being denser on the footprint. I would love a botanical garden at Dix. I would love it more if I could amble from Snoopy's to Dix with a box of chicken fingers in my hand, but Western Blvd is a bypass around BH and not a compliment to it..and a bypass between BH and Dix makes for an unpleasant pedestrian crossing...this in addition to the fact Boylan Ave does not cross Western into Dix....plus Western does not have sidewalks...there is a greenway, which is relatively useless in the context of urban design and function...

Edited by Jones133

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^^to be clear, I was not saying there is anything wrong with Boylan Heights as it is, only that it does not lend itself to integrating Dix into the City proper due to its street layout. It certainly is denser, more walkable and more mixed use that anything in Brier Creek other than some apartments being denser on the footprint.

I apologize if it sounded like I was trying to put words or ideas in your mouth, I wasn't and I understood the points you were making.

But the above statement is patently false. I don't live anywhere near Brier Creek and I don't claim to be an expert on the area, but a couple of drives through tells me something. This place http://www.visitcharlestonhomes.com/alexmap.html is single family homes, each on its own lot of .07-.08 acres, right next to all kinds of shopping and dining. Probably half as much shopping and dining as in all of downtown Raleigh (I am assuming crossing Glenwood up there is tantamount to crossing Western -it can be done with great care). And apartments certainly count too, as real people with real needs and desires live in them - downtown could stand a few more apartments.

I would never want to live in one of those houses out there, among many other reasons I have no desire to see Walmart or Dick's Sporting Goods from my back deck. But many folks are obviously just fine with that, and Boylan Heights or Mordecai with plenty of 1/3 acre or greater lots or most other single-family neighborhoods near downtown can't touch that density or proximity to services and employment. To simply say it isn't so seems to me to be denying the obvious.

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I apologize if it sounded like I was trying to put words or ideas in your mouth, I wasn't and I understood the points you were making.

But the above statement is patently false. I don't live anywhere near Brier Creek and I don't claim to be an expert on the area, but a couple of drives through tells me something. This place http://www.visitcharlestonhomes.com/alexmap.html is single family homes, each on its own lot of .07-.08 acres, right next to all kinds of shopping and dining. Probably half as much shopping and dining as in all of downtown Raleigh (I am assuming crossing Glenwood up there is tantamount to crossing Western -it can be done with great care). And apartments certainly count too, as real people with real needs and desires live in them - downtown could stand a few more apartments.

I would never want to live in one of those houses out there, among many other reasons I have no desire to see Walmart or Dick's Sporting Goods from my back deck. But many folks are obviously just fine with that, and Boylan Heights or Mordecai with plenty of 1/3 acre or greater lots or most other single-family neighborhoods near downtown can't touch that density or proximity to services and employment. To simply say it isn't so seems to me to be denying the obvious.

I don't mind being paraphrased at all, I just wanted to clear things up some......but patently false? I suggest you do some more home work. Boylan Heights is around 40 acres total. The typical lot size is .14 to .15 (see the property records at Wake County's website), which is less than 1/6 of an acre. Lot sizes in Brier Creek are tricky because Brier Creek is really several subdivisions all smacked into the same general area. Lots around the golf course are about 1/2 acre (Arnold Palmer Dr etc.) Sure the lots in the townhouse areas are small, 0.03 acres or so. From a quick look, all of Brier Creek is easily over 200 acres. Some parts are denser, some are not. Brier Creek though is bisected by, and its ability to function as a whole community is dictated entirely by its bisection by Brier Creek Parkway, and the placement of the shopping along US 70 in Brier Creek Commons. A quick drive down Brier Creek Parkway and its very easy to tell that nobody ever takes a sunday stroll up to the Commons. The map makes it clear the neighborhood is dominated by the low density golf course and its surrounds. You must not be from Raleigh if you think a 1 mile radius of Brier Creek has more restaurants than downtown Raleigh. Granted, Boylan Heights has no restaurants but does have a handful of small businesses (Frank Harmon etc.). True downtown also has few shops, but to compare fairly by size, adding any 150 acres of downtown to Boylan Heights and its number of mixed use buildings, and overall mixed use siting of structures makes BC look like the chump neighborhood that it is regarding urban design. Technically the map you posted is not even part of Brier Creek "proper" but is another developer altogether.

I appreciate what you are trying to say and your apparent preference for urban scale and design, but you need to rethink what area supports what side of the coin....

Map comparing the neighborhoodsMap_Comparision.pdf

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So, um, back to Dix... whether you agree with the botanic gardens idea or not (& I am adding this simply as food for thought based on positive experiences in cities overseas), there is no question that "developing" Dix as a park or even as a mixed use community will be a major challenge with the severe lack of connectivity and access to the site (as Jones alluded to above).

In seeing the 306 folks advance their cause as the apparent de-facto locally preferred plan (only to see years of delay in the legislature), I would still submit that no one has ever explained in detail how a 306 acre park would be executed and the myriad issues & stakeholders' interests (like say the Caraleigh neighborhood) dealt with effectively. I'm sure this will be down the line, but it will be interesting to see where Gov-elect Perdue comes out on this issue.

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I agree that it would be great to have a botanical garden on Dix Hill. It is a much better site than the current site of the Raulston Arboretum, for a number of reasons: Dix has a beautiful landscape, with hills, flat areas, and a creek. The current Arboretum is mostly a large flat area, with no interesting landforms. Dix Hill is near downtown, near other attractions, and has great views. The current arboretum is in a light industrial area, next to the noisy Beltline, away from any other attractions, except of course for Neomonde.

But the Arboretum, wonderful as it is, is only partly a show garden. It is also a place for the Horticulture school to experiment with plants and teach horticulture. Beauty, therefore, is a secondary object, unlike the more gorgeous Duke Gardens. At the Arboretum, wonderful plants are sometimes pulled up just to make room for new plants the school wants to try out. And while individual parts of the Arboretum are nicely designed, there never was much of an overall design for the place.

Therefore, I believe that a Botanical Garden on Dix Hill would not replace the Arboretum, but supplement it, as a showplace for landscape design as well as horticulture.

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I don't mind being paraphrased at all, I just wanted to clear things up some......but patently false? I suggest you do some more home work. Boylan Heights is around 40 acres total. The typical lot size is .14 to .15 (see the property records at Wake County's website), which is less than 1/6 of an acre. Lot sizes in Brier Creek are tricky because Brier Creek is really several subdivisions all smacked into the same general area. Lots around the golf course are about 1/2 acre (Arnold Palmer Dr etc.) Sure the lots in the townhouse areas are small, 0.03 acres or so. From a quick look, all of Brier Creek is easily over 200 acres. Some parts are denser, some are not. Brier Creek though is bisected by, and its ability to function as a whole community is dictated entirely by its bisection by Brier Creek Parkway, and the placement of the shopping along US 70 in Brier Creek Commons. A quick drive down Brier Creek Parkway and its very easy to tell that nobody ever takes a sunday stroll up to the Commons. The map makes it clear the neighborhood is dominated by the low density golf course and its surrounds. You must not be from Raleigh if you think a 1 mile radius of Brier Creek has more restaurants than downtown Raleigh. Granted, Boylan Heights has no restaurants but does have a handful of small businesses (Frank Harmon etc.). True downtown also has few shops, but to compare fairly by size, adding any 150 acres of downtown to Boylan Heights and its number of mixed use buildings, and overall mixed use siting of structures makes BC look like the chump neighborhood :( that it is regarding urban design. Technically the map you posted is not even part of Brier Creek "proper" but is another developer altogether.

I appreciate what you are trying to say and your apparent preference for urban scale and design, but you need to rethink what area supports what side of the coin....

Map comparing the neighborhoodsMap_Comparision.pdf

Could you have biased your comparison any more? You dissed apartments in Brier Creek, so I showed you a single-family development on lots exactly half the size of those in Boylan Heights. So you discounted those and the even smaller townhouse lots, to focus solely on the larger lots and the golf course

Edited by ecology

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On the topic of Brier Creek being a walkable community, I am guessing that those who suggest this notion have never actually tried to walk around in Brier Creek. It is no North Hills. It is a glorified strip mall that happens to have a halfway decent amount of residential nearby, as the crow flies. Walkable it is not. Why? Because it was built with the automobile as its centerpiece. When I lived in NW Raleigh I frequented Brier Creek and noticed the Charleston style homes there. They are cute, but I wouldn't call them "walkable" to Brier Creek. Maybe you could walk to the Kohls, Super Walmart, etc., but it wouldn't be an easy walk, and it's you up against many cars traveling a fairly high rates of speed. It certainly would not be a pleasant walk back home once you have purchased the items you went for. And forget walking from there to the rest of the strip on the other side of 70. That would certainly be a suicide mission. People in Boylan Heights can much more easily walk or bike to Cameron Village without half as much danger from auto traffic. I had a hard time parking at Camille's cafe and then choosing to walk instead of drive over to the movie theater. You can't even walk within Brier Creek without dodging cars.

All that said, Western Blvd is a major impediment to integrating the Dix property with the existing downtown neighborhood framework.

I would love to see a botanical garden on the Dix property. Let the aroboretum stay where it is and continue its existing function, which is less of a tourist destination and more of a learning and research center that happens to be to the public. I wouldn't mind seeing a botanical garden like the Atlanta Botanical garden on the Dix campus. As much as I love the arboretum and fully appreciate it, I would love to see some enclosed gardens such as the awesome orchid and tropical gardens at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which are stunning, and more landscape design, etc. in a garden that is geared more toward recreational visits. I don't think this would hurt the arboretum, as the purposes would be different.

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