A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about Dorothea Dix, the crusader for mental health reform in the 19th century who came to North Carolina, documented deplorable conditions for the mentally afflicted and wound up persuading the General Assembly to finance what is now Dorthea Dix Hospital overlooking downtown Raleigh.
The state plans to close that hospital. Local developers, the Easley administration and parks advocates all have big ideas for how the last 306 acres of the original Dix Hill tract should be used. I wrote about park advocates seeing it as a destination park for not just the city but the entire state. Here’s a link to that column.
Willie Pilkington, an avid gardener and member of the Wake County Botanical Garden Society, pointed out that I had overlooked his organization’s proposal for a World Class Botanical Garden on the site. You can read more about that proposal in this link.
The hitch, as always, is about cost. The Easley administration sees the land as a financial asset. It wants to put some state office buildings there. The city of Raleigh would like to buy it, and there are a couple of estimates of $40 to $50 million or more for the cost of the land. Some folks hope the statewill simply deed it over, as the state did when it gave land to N.C. State University and to the State Farmers’ Market.
The legislature has debated what to do. Some believe it should be put up for bid and sold to the best bidder – which may mean a lot of commercial or residential development. Wednesday, the N.C. House decided it all needed more study. That’s what it decided in 2005 when it created the first Dix Hospital study commission. But putting the matter in a study bill now preserves the possibility that the legislature could revisit the issue later this year or in 2008 and decide to sell or otherwise transfer use of the land for one or more of the many competing proposals -- but it mentions any arrangement should provide funding for mental health. The legislature’s crossover deadline – the date for when a bill had to pass either the House or Senate to be eligible for further consideration in this biennial legislature – was Thursday. As Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, was quoted in the N&O, “We’re just preserving our options.”