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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.

Distance of those homes from Wally World - 500-700 feet.

Distance of those homes from Kohls - something like 100-200 feet?

Separated only by the private alley for the homes and parking lot.

How is the world do you folks define "easy walk?" You'd have to actually set up house in the housewares section at Kohls to make it any easier. I would never claim it is an attractive walk by my tastes, but traffic out there doesn't seem to move any faster than it shoots down Western.

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Updated plans for Dorothea Dix Park have been revealed: http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article219492075.html?__twitter_impression=

Drove through Dorothea Dix property today.  Lot of potential here for sure. 

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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
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For the purposes of discussion, let's just forget about moving the Raulston Arboretum, and instead look at it this way... as Mr. Brown pointed out, the existing Arboretum is used for teaching purposes and not just for 'show.' Then why not retain the arboretum solely for horticultural education and use a site at Dix for a unified NCSU landscape architecture and botanic garden project somewhere near Centennial Campus perhaps? That would be a nice complement to a Dix Park... creating and enhancing what surely would be a regional tourism destination in the heart of the city.

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Distance of those homes from Wally World - 500-700 feet.

Distance of those homes from Kohls - something like 100-200 feet?

Separated only by the private alley for the homes and parking lot.

How is the world do you folks define "easy walk?" You'd have to actually set up house in the housewares section at Kohls to make it any easier. I would never claim it is an attractive walk by my tastes, but traffic out there doesn't seem to move any faster than it shoots down Western.

My definition of an "easy" walk has less to do with distance than whether the path I must take is pedestrian friendly. An "easy" walk to me means that there are appropriate and safe avenues in place that were designed with the pedestrian in mind, avoiding interaction with autos or making that interaction safe for the pedestrian.

About half of the Charleston development is an "easy" walk if all you look at is distance. For the rest, unless you are on good enough terms with your neighbors to walk through their yards every time you want to go pick up TP at Wally World, those distances could as much as triple depending on where your house is in the development (plus crossing ACC Blvd which is a 4-lane road). Not everyone's backyard butts up against the Alexander Promenade shopping center, and I do not refer to distance "as the crow flies" when I talk about walking somewhere. When I walk somewhere, I tend not to trespass on private property to get where I am going (distance as the crow flies) - I take the pedestrian avenues that are appropriate. That said, if you live on the east side of ACC Blvd in the middle of the Charleston Homes section, you will have to either cut through your neighbors' yards, or walk all the way to an alley or the end of the street to get to the shopping center entrance. Once you're there, if you want to go anywhere other than Kohls, Petsmart or Wally World, you need to navigate a parking lot ocean that is not pedestrian friendly by any means (not even for those who park in it).

I don't think anyone on here is saying that Western Blvd is ped friendly. In fact, everyone has said that it is one of the factors impeding the connection of Dix with Boylan Heights and the rest of downtown. However, I think there are probably ways to at least improve things a little should the property be utilized in a fashion where people downtown would want to walk or bike to some sort of attraction there.

To me, the botanical garden idea, in complement with the arboretum remaining in its current location, would be a great addition to the city. However, the issues concerning urban form in the area that Jones and others have mentioned would definitely need to be addressed before a botanical garden or any other "destination" could be successful at the Dix property.

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  • 5 months later...

Some NCSU students add their thoughts on Dix. Supposedly, Governor Purdue has said she supports a Dix Park, but it will be interesting to see (given the state's financial difficulties) whether the temptation to sell off the land for short term gain will be too powerful to resist. Let's hope not, as even if some land is developed (perhaps near Lake Wheeler Rd), it should be done in a coordinated fashion. Even the 306 folks need to develop an answer to the question 'what will be done with the buildings?' other than 'we'll figure that part out later.'

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...Even the 306 folks need to develop an answer to the question 'what will be done with the buildings?' other than 'we'll figure that part out later.'

Amen to that, Chief. I'll even go farther than that. As well-meaning as the folks at 306 probably are, I think they are overly-simplistic in their approach to what would be a wowzer of a land transaction. I get the impression that, correct me if I'm wrong, the 306 folks want to take up a collection plate and knock on the doors of the Mansion with a few hundred thousand bucks, plus the absolutely pitiful offer the City made back a year or so ago.

Uhmm...No.

Awhile back on one of my ranted postings about this park project, the State's assessment of Dix at the time was, if I remember correctly, around $150m. OK, that's 2007 dollars. The greenback is losing value, so the inflationary pressure on the dollar would put it up closer to $200m now. So let's say for the sake of argument that the demand value for the land is down, putting it back at $150 million. The State would, and should land bank it until the value improves, unless it gets a viable offer from the City, and/or partners that will either: 1) pay the State a premium for the land; 2) acquire the land at any value, but with enough investment (read: development and tax base) to return to the state coffers, in some form, more than the value of the land they have now sold; or 3) a combination of both. 306ers seem to have this quaint little notion that Dix is Raleigh's birthright, and should be endowed onto the City for a pittance. Wrong. It needs to have some tangible benefit for the State as well, or else you are going to have otherwise good people in places like Hickory, or Rockingham, or Elizabeth City -- places that may not have it quite so good right now -- flipping Raleigh denizens the bird. And with good reason.

Now, when I say development, I am not saying all 306 acres. 200 should be plenty for a first-class park -- depending on how you design it. Now you're not going to get a "Central Park" out of this deal, even if Dix is gifted to you. Raleigh is a wee bit too late to the game for that. There is no 870 acres to be had anywhere in the Triangle anymore for that kind of a project. Nor will you get a Balboa Park (1,200 acres) or a Golden Gate Park (1,017 acres). But what you can get is an urban park with already established meadows, etc. Lakes, fountains, boathouses and the like can be added. It's still a huge property, and viewed in proportions, it would be proportionally bigger to downtown Raleigh than Central Park is to Manhattan. For those of you who would pooh-pooh development on the park's periphery, I offer you this. Something and somebody has got to pay for the park in the first place. And pay a fair price. Otherwise it doesn't exist. High-rise hotels ringing the park will command top-dollar and enhance DTR as a convention locale (it's not a top draw now folks!). Condos on the park's ring would, unlike the all-hated Soleil Center, command top-dollar prices/rents, and go extremely fast -- even in a down market. People will pay for amenities that you can't get just anywhere. And if you think high-rise development destroys the ambiance of the park, you're simply delusional. Nobody complains about Central Park being ringed by towers. No less than three of Denver's urban parks have high-rise condos on at least two sides. It doesn't detract. The mass of people adds character and charm.

One last thing. I noticed a reference in the N&O article to the buildings at Dix. "Well, what do we do with all of those buildings?" Answer: Use them! Or at least most of them. They are a godsend. You're going to have to have park maintenance facilities, right? Already there. The hospital? Well! Nothing fills a vacuum in a park better than artists. If the city co-ops the maintenance of the building with an arts council, it can come by funding to do so. Lo and behold, offered as live/work studios and galleries, the place becomes a bohemian marketplace that makes money. A well run park should recover more money than it costs to maintain it. Stick a zoo in there, and I guarantee that it brings a net revenue to the City and State -- one way or the other. Botanical gardens. A Japanese tea garden. Aviary. Aquarium. A model railroad museum might follow. Think bigger and beyond what North Carolina has now.

But when everything is said and done, you need a park in the first place to start. To that end, you need Raleigh's business community, first and foremost, pulling the wagon on this. It's too big a project for the local garden club to take on alone.

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  • 1 month later...

Reference ^^^

This isn't an earthshaking development, but it bodes well as a trend.

N&O 08/02/09

At least this shows that Raleigh's business community is recognizing the value of Dix, beyond the noble effort of the Pooles and the existing circle. The more business names that you can throw on top of the project, the more the project begins to look as it should; losing the stigma of an overpriced garden club project, and emitting the aura of a value enhancing project for the city, and especially the neighborhood around it (which really could use some sprucing up). Who knows? Maybe you can build enough demand for the real estate encompassing Dix, that you can take down Central Prison as well. This is as good an economic trigger as you're going to get.

I can't remember if I floated this idea before or not, and I don't have time to look through the blog for it. Set up an NPO for the purpose of acquiring the Dix property. Keep the city out of it, unless you absolutely have to, to reduce the specter of a political football. In the bylaws of the organization state clearly that the NPO is being formed for the acquisition and holding, in perpetuity, the Dix property as a publicly accessible park. However, some lower and upper parameters should be stated also in the bylaws insofar as a certain percentage of the acreage can be used for development, say up to 15%, in order to produce an income stream suitable to offset the maintenance costs of the facilities at Dix in the future, thereby allowing as high a percentage as possible of contributions to be used for land acquisition to burn the mortgage as quickly as possible. And of course, fix an acquisition price.

Say after a grass roots campaign you can log 50,000 supporters (and I think that's reasonable given the size of the city, and the self-interest incentives for downtowners and near west siders (Boylan, Cameron, etc.), and much like public radio and television does, solicit small monthly donations. This is a model of how it might work, although without field marketing I can't vouch for the numbers -- this one I just use as an example (and probably a conservative one):

50,000 supporters

Average donation @ $10 per month x 50,000 = $500,000 per month x 12 months = $6,000,000 per year x 15 years = $90,000,000

Average donation @ $25 per month x 50,000 = $1,250,000 x 12 months = $15,000,000 per year x 15 years = $225,000,000

So, we'll go with the last figure since it's not only do-able, but at $300 per year is a comfortable tax deduction for households, and at that rate of income really gets into some decent investment paper. So let's offer the State around $130,000,000 for the property (could go higher, might go lower, but we'll use a figure in the ballpark of the site's assessment). Don't forget that developing Dix as a park will refill state coffers through development and tax creation, so at $130m, even if it's lowballed somewhat, it's still not a give-away. So, we put a tentative offer on the table for $130,000,000. It's agreed to, and then we begin the donation stream, the revenues from which would be held in escrow and guaranteed by a performance bond from contributors until we reach the level of $13,000,000 (10% of purchase), which we would then use for a down payment. We then enter a firm sales contract with the State, with the State in the role of the mortgage company, holding title until the note is cleared. Starting at the close of the deal, from years 1 through 5, parking and other necessary improvements and repairs could be made to streets, water pipes and sewers, and your basic park is put into place. Starting at year 5, bigger improvements can be made to certain core buildings and demolition to excess structures can begin. At year 10, the park is allowed to begin long-term planning and construction for the facility, providing the State signs off on it as not impeding the value of the property or countering their remaining interest (a formality). At year 15, it's paid for, and it's go, go, go.

Even though the payment period is scheduled for 15 years, it shouldn't take that long to clear title. In fact, the sooner the better. Business cycles tend to run every 7 to 10 years, so the longer you expose the financing on a given project, the greater the likelihood that something goes wrong. That's why so many developers get hammered. At the $25 per month level, the thing is way overfunded, so early payment is a good possibility and wise option. I would even go so far as to finance infrastructure to a certain degree to help clear title earlier. The only way that I see this project getting into trouble is if, counter to my advice, no income stream or trust is set up to cover maintenance costs and donations start getting sapped for operating expenses.

At $1,250,000 per month we take 5% off the top for administrative costs and for planning fees and such. That's a cap. It should cost less to actually run the thing. So, $1,250,000 x .05 = $62,500. The net is now $1,187,500 per month. Now we set up a 40/60 split, with 40% going as a direct payment to the State monthly, and 60% put into a CD or other investment grade product along the lines of say 4%, compounded. So now we have $475,000 per month going to direct payment to the State, and $712,500 going to escrow. At 4% nominal, and 360 days of compounding per year, we get an effective annual interest rate of 4.08%. At 12 months your equivalent nominal monthly rate is 4.01%. At the payment of $712,500 per month over 60 months, we end up with a 5-year balance of $47,403,482.

So here we go.

Year 0 (Organizing): $13,000,000 down, with remainder of $2,000,000 remanded to escrow. Escrow $2,000,000.

Year 1: $5,700,000 direct payments to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $10,819,456; $18,700,000 paid.

Year 2: $5,700,000 direct to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $19,998,821; $24,400,000 paid.

Year 3: $5,700,000 direct to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $29,552,781; $30,100,000 paid.

Year 4: $5,700,000 direct to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $39,496,623; $35,800,000 paid.

Year 5: $5,700,000 direct to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $49,846,258; $41,500,000 paid.

Year 6: $5,700,000 direct to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $8,737,839; $97,046,258 paid (with escrow payment at beginning of year).

Year 7: $5,700,000 direct to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $17,832.256; $102,746,258 paid.

Year 8: $5,700,000 direct to State, $8,550,000 to escrow. Escrow $27,297,802; $108,446,258 paid.

Year 9: Final escrow payment to State of $26,553,742 to complete sale of Dix. Remainder of $744,060 in escrow.

Total 9-year administrative fees, </= $6,750,000.

So, at the end of year 9 the donations could either be closed or redirected to another worthy project or to continue improvements at Dix. But the land deal is done at Year 9, with no griping taxpayers, no capital fees, and no interest paid. And the donors get a charitable tax deduction, and a new park for their trouble. The State maintains title until the deal is done, and can show the asset on their books until the cash obligation is met in full. It's too bad more deals (especially for public amenities) aren't done this way. There would certainly be more of them because they would be far cheaper to do.

OK, naysayers. I dare you. Go ahead and tell me about vindictive, straw-hat rural politicians that would thwart the deal because they hate Raleigh and everything about it. You're wrong. For one thing, Dix will become a liability for the State government to maintain once Dix closes (as of now, 2012). That costs money folks. The sooner they can dispose of it, the better. And to maintain an entire campus for a couple of outcast bureaucratic offices is just breaking wind and we all know it. To let Dix completely out to commercial interests serves no one -- another Super WalMart with some scraggly office parks and apartments is not in the state coffers' best interest either. That stuff can be done elsewhere. An urban park will create high-density, high-value projects that will add quite a bit more significantly to the tax base than flatscape, and probably more importantly, to the city and state's image.

And I will part with this observation. Nothing scares the #

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I would absolutely not question that the state would be willing - glad, even - to sell Dix in its entirity to a conservancy that has raised enough money to buy it.

$130,000,000 is a lot of money. But it certainly can be done, over time. I have a feeling that they wouldn't have to depend solely on small monthly donations from individual families (though that would certainly be a large chunk of it.) No doubt some business interests would chip in. The city and the county could probably be expected to contribute, too.

The challenge will be, I fear, to convince people that this should be an active center for all sorts of public uses rather than just nebulous "green space" or "open space". Some measure a park's value by looking at how much of it is "green" or "open" - as in, what percentage of the land is covered by grass or trees. That is ridiculous - if you want undeveloped green space we have 5,000 acres of it over at Umstead.

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^^^ O...I agree with you that corporate donations and the like would shorten up that window of acquisition quite a bit, but I deliberately omitted that aspect to 1) keep it simple, and 2) show what could be done with relatively small donations. Again though, my preference would be to cut the city and Wake County out of the equation in order to keep Dix from becoming a repository of political banality. I trust private conservancies more than I do governments, although the former can run amok at times with overzealous "greeners". Raleigh already has protected nature reserves in plenitude.

What the city needs now is an urban park. A people park. One where cultures meet. Where concerts take place on the edge of a lake. Where kites fly without getting caught in the power lines. Where you can buy a Coke, milk shake, or a latte if you want one on the way to see the model train museum, coming from the timepiece museum, or the motion picture gallery. A park that has bistros and ice cream stands (which make money and help support the park) surrounding aviaries and botanical gardens where artists can paint, and perhaps (alas!) sell their paintings to visitors, and also help support the park.

I would not discourage corporate donations at all, but I would certainly lean toward limiting them. Since corporate funding tends to come in a quid pro quo manner, you might run the risk of the park getting too commercialized and filled with the mundane trappings of everyday life (Mickey D's and Burger Kings everywhere instead of that bistro, for instance). Put too many eyesores in a park, and people might as well go to Crabtree anyway.

My case against the city of Raleigh can be summed up in two words -- Jaume Plensa. That whole frecaso was disturbing to watch. Absolutely terrified by something daring (not to mention underwritten by one Jim Goodmon) the city decided to leave DTR devoid of anything resembling youthful (downtowns were revived by, and are inhabited by, mostly younger people, folks) and throw a "Mayberry-on-steroids" motif on the FSM with what should be the crown jewel of the city. Now, Dix would certainly qualify as a much different sort of proposition, with a rather more conservative bent. But what would convince me that the city would do anything less specious or feckless than what they did downtown with a big, new park?

(And by the way, I am glad to see Durham get all the accolades it deserves from the DPAC. And I hope they can see the glow of it from Nash Square.)

So my advice remains. Keep the taxpayers out of the equation by making the park private, and keep the city of Raleigh's trembling hands off the entire Dix project. Your kids will thank you.

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  • 3 weeks later...

As long as more buildings aren't built it still is pretty much a park. Maybe better, because a "destination" park might generate so many visitors that wildlife has a harder go of it. Meeker had a good idea of letting portions of it have more public access, though I have had little trouble from security in daylight hours anyway....

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This is fine. Remember, the park was mostly a method of protection from encroaching developments in case the hospital did pack up shop. Since they're not, the natural areas will be safer.

However, even with the campus there, there's a lot of unused space. I'd be up for at least making greenway links with the soccer field, pullen park, lake Raleigh, and Centennial Campus

Edited by Spatula
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This article seems to indicate that the state might never release Dix from their control for a park or anything else. If you recall, there was a plan to build DHHS buildings out there, which is very much in conflict with the park concept of no new buildings. Now talk of 'state govt is going to grow' and you know what that means... more proposals for state buildings are coming in the future. I would not view this as simply a delay in the inevitable closing of Dix, but possibly a new direction in state policy towards the use of this property.
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Which makes sense given that the large downtown plan to build out has shrunk to some degree and that plans out near the RBC center seem to be minimal. Not that DHHS ever had plan to be in downtown proper or west Raleigh that I know of. The Division of Air Quality has a new lab on Maywood across from the Farmer's Market. It might be a stretch, to think this whole side of town is becoming a focus based on these two items but its interesting to me nonetheless

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I think I've made the point before that, even if the State wanted to keep Dix open for a time, it would not necessarily be an incongruous land use to have the land around it become a park. There is, after all, a precedent for this -- and in one of America's great urban parks at that -- at San Diego's Balboa Park.

The Naval Hospital sits at the southeastern corner of the park. Excess parking at the Naval is often used as overflow parking for events and weekend/holiday crowds to the Park and the San Diego Zoo. The only difference between Dix and Balboa would be the location of the facilities, as Dix would be somewhat more central to the parcel. But the same dynamics would work there. Shared parking, and grounds maintenance, which could actually benefit the State if the parks authority would take responsibility for that. It also seems to me that Dix is a little on the large side to be kept open for a mere (but not insignificant) 100 patients. Unless the State is so loose in the front end on cost management that it doesn't mind maintaining an entire campus open for a relatively small health care operation, doing it this way is hardly a good option.

I'm not in health care mind you, but this is what I am thinking. 100 patients, about 15 or more professional staffers between doctors and RNs, to cover all the shifts, then some 20 to 30 more as NAs, orderlies, etc. That's a given, perhaps. But now you still need food service workers, security, and maintenance staff for a 24/7 operation. Contract it? Sure. But they are still costs, and not small ones. Whatever -- you are now at the tipping point of having nearly as many staffers as patients in this facility!

Now if you have a cafeteria doing double duty as a park-supported commissary or eatery, and actually selling food as well, then you have an incremental cost reduction. (And it shouldn't be lost on anyone here that the food would have to be a couple of steps above your garden variety institutional food service to fare well in the marketplace -- thus better for the patients.) If security is shared, or perhaps the park supports a contingency of Raleigh's own police department, that too becomes a shared, thus mitigated cost. And we already talked about maintenance.

Whatever the State's intentions with Dix, problems at Butner will still need to be fixed. There is no sweeping it all under the rug. If they let the unused parts of the facility go, the entire building will atrophy in short order, and then they are really in a jam. However, if the State continues to want Dix intact, they are going to have to pay for it. And I expect that the fire under their collective feet is getting a bit toasty right about now. The hotel and residential belt around the edges of the park, as I and others have previously suggested, could also be tagged with a special use tax that could feed money into the State's mental health program to help out.

In short, this could actually be a great scenario for a compromise. Having Dix as a civic park, with the right design, will directly and indirectly infuse money into a State program that no one is left to doubt is in very big trouble.

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This is a comparison perspective of the argument I was making about the hospital and park at Dix not being mutually exclusive. Here is the precedent.

This is San Diego's Balboa Park as seen in Google Earth. The red ringed area (yes, that is a building, and a massive one at that) is the Naval Hospital, which as I and others have alluded to earlier, is wedged into the south central part of the original Balboa Park. Should it be there? Probably not, but it goes to show that the land uses are not terrible affronts to one another.

post-15165-1252252271_thumb.jpg

Now take a look at the bird's eye of Dix Hill from GE. From every possible continuing use scenario that I have yet heard from the State, these hospital buildings are more than enough to handle all those. Percentage-wise, the footprints are not much different. The offset location is also similar, insomuch as I would assume that the park would be centered more to the Western Blvd. and Centennial Pkwy. side of things.

post-15165-1252252287_thumb.jpg

And maybe the State wants to use the rest of that property for other state facilities? I doubt it. If anybody has the huevos (and the unmitigated gall) to even suggest that, give me his or her name, and it will be lock and load time for him or her from all fronts, from the Libertarians, to real Republican conservatives, to Blue Dog Democrats (not that liberals would approve of that kind of largesse, either). He or she had better have an updated resume for the aftermath of making such a statement of mission creep from state government. That's a lot of land, folks.

And "campus" designs, especially for civic buildings are way out of vogue now. The Art Museum might be able to get away with sprawling over several cow pastures, but only in the context of being a garden for sculpture and creative landscape. And perhaps the Vet School, because, well, that's what they do. Pastures and the creatures in them. Anything else is asking for ridicule, and ostracizing of the first magnitude from the press, local and national.

Other points that didn't make it into my last rant. Having a park surrounded by highrises is not the antithema to a pleasant park that militant garden clubbers would have one believe. Those intensely populated residences provide the park with three things. One, a heavy-use population that will report problems, and also insist that they get solved, as well as that improvements be made. After all, they are the ones pumping lots of tax money into the neighborhood with their pricey condos, and adding value to it. Second, those residents all supplement security in that, there is always somebody there, watching, and in the age of cell phones, that type of vigilance has saved major parks from ruin and abandonment from shear fright. Third, and by no means insignificant, those same residents, with their self-interested tendencies to protect their park, will watch over the park from the height of their pricey perches, like guards in so many watchtowers. They may not be able to stop petty violations and such, nor the occasional George Michael going on in a parking lot, but the major stuff they will. And that is a major crime deterrent. These highly concerned residents, if for no other reason than to protect their investments, would be zealous caretakers of the park they bought next to. But more often than not, they are good people anyway, these city dwellers in their highrises, who don't mind sharing space with other people.

A field of pansies and roses, surrounded by flatscape, no matter how nice, will be very labor intensive to protect from vandals and miscreants, unless (and I would say, even if) surrounded by eight-foot high fences -- which sort of eliminates the rationale for the "park" in the first place.

This is an aspect of urban life that few Raleigh denizens would understand, unless they had been reared in or spent plenty of time in larger cities. Why urban features work and behave like they do, since most of us raised in Raleigh are used to suburbia on steroids. Like why large urban parks work is because they have lots of people in them. And to guarantee that lots of people stay in them, you need lots of people to live nearby. Add plenty of stability, safety, and unique features, then you end up with a tourist base. Maybe you want that, maybe you don't. But if you want Dix as a park, I believe this is the best way.

Here in Denver, we have several large parks that are framed by highrise condos and apartments. If you wish, angle down in Google Earth to such parks as Cheesman (all around it), City Park (especially to the south, where new condo towers are still sprouting along 17th Ave.), and Washington (they do have height and McMansion controls in place for the Wash Park area now, but the four towers north of the park are well-blended into the area since the 60's. My exemplar, Balboa Park is also ringed by mid- and highrises on Bankers Hill and Hillcrest, with the same kind of panorama of downtown San Diego that you could have from a Dix Hill Park of downtown Raleigh.

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I think the retention of Dix property's use as a mental health facility is GOOD news, because it keeps it out of the hands of developers for years to come. As for the State's plan to build more buildings there, given the current fiscal situation and the legislators' rather dim view of DHHS's management capabilities, I wouldn't lose too much sleep over the prospect of hundreds of thousands of square feet of new DHHS bureaucracy out there--particularly given that the current glut of office space all over town leads to bargains when DHHS goes shopping for space to lease.

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Today on the Infrastructurist blog there is a terrific post showing 10 of the best urban city parks in the world from satellite photos.

A point I have tried to stress several times is that the "destination parks" that the Dix 306ers like to promote (their most common analogue being NYC's Central Park) are mostly surrounded by dense development. These aerial photos seem to bear that out. The notable exceptions in this group of 10 are a park in portugal which has been ringed somewhat with highways (as sad mistake) and gorgeous Stanley Park in Vancouver, which has water on three sides but the dense development of downtown Vancouver on the fourth side.

I think these aerial shots show that there's a dichotomy between urban forest-type parks and more formal city parks on a grand scale. The difference is that forested parks seem to have less of a hard edge between the intensity of nearby development and the park, whereas the more open space/paths-and-focal-points parks seem to have more well-defined edges. (Central Park, Golden Gate Park, Retiro Park, Hyde Park, Luxembourg Gardens)

On a size basis, it's interesting to note that Dix is closest in scale to Madrid's Retiro Park, which clearly is supported by a good deal of dense buildings that are probably 4-6 stories in height, on all sides of the park.

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  • 1 year later...

The future of the Dix Property is back in the news. Dix is winding down it's operations, with the remaining patients scheduled to be transferred to other facilities. Of course, there are still over a thousand DHHS employees on site to consider. Meeker is pushing for the state to build a new building downtown that would house the DHHS employees in a more centralized location. Hmm, where have we

The wildcard here is the state budget is in shambles and the GOP now controls the legislature. That means the state is going to be scrambling for cash, to include selling surplus property like Dix. Now that cuts both ways, meaning a new downtown office building is likely out of the question for now. However, this could be a historic opportunity for the city and various Dix groups to try to come up with an attractive package for the state. Not the best time to raise money for these sorts of things, but maybe with the regional market slowly recovering, there might be some opportunities to raise private money. Although the Mayor has been trying to get the Lightner Center built with city funds, raising property taxes a couple of pennies to help pay for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this would be a much easier sell to the public IMO. Raleigh already has the lowest property taxes of any major NC city. Leveraging city funds, private donations, and other mechanisms might provide the type of cash the state could not resist. I'm thinking on the order of $120M or so, which would be almost $400k/acre, and just between the assessed land value of $83M and the total value of $182M.

Call the campaign "Pennies for Dix Park"

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I know the State has plenty of land downtown still but I wonder if the CIty has any they could swap as part of Dix deal. Donations contributed via someone like the Sierra Club could acquire Rocky Branch buffers so that the folks donating get to write off the donation (not sure of 306 Dix is tax exempt but I doubt it). Maybe even some sort of public/private partnership could be worked out for a DHHS complex downtown where the actual owner is a private entity that has to pay property tax (improves the CIty's position), and the actual project is subsidized by a city owned parking garage incorporated into the complex and the rent for DHHS ends up being less than maintaining the 24 buildings at Dix.

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...Raleigh already has the lowest property taxes of any major NC city...

Doesn't matter. In the current political climate there will be no property tax increase by the City of Raleigh -- at least not until the State and County have figured out what they're going to do. By that time, the November 2011 municipal elections will be upon us. At this point it's unclear whether Meeker will stand for re-election.

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Since Perdue is not seeking re-election, it seems that she may want to find a way to permanently dispose of the Dorothea Dix property.

http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/02/15/1857775/perdue-announces-integral-step.html]Here is an article.

The entire 319 acre parcel was appraised at $60 million (today's value) and $86 million (if we were still in the middle of the 2007 real estate boom.) Meeker went on record saying that the city would pay a reasonable price for the land, and I'm pretty sure that McFarlane will follow that same line of reasoning. $60 million seems like a pretty big chunk just for the land alone, not to mention a huge pile of money to plan the park and develop facilities there. For Raleigh to bite off and chew by itself, this would certainly require a bond issue and a very big one at that.

We'll see where it goes from here.

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From N&O: "NC elected officials give permission to close Dix". The timetable they laid out to close the mental health hospital is August 10.

My opinion of the park is, I'd like to see some of the oldest buildings converted to lofts or offices and then development of dense pockets of urban centers, but the majority left as a park. I think it would be cool for the City of Raleigh to build a high ropes course similar to the one Durham has. There is a massive one in Sandy Springs, Maryland outside DC that was amazing!

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