::Dorothea Dix On The Mind Of Raleigh
By Elliott West, Raleigh Chronicle News Editor
Thursday June 14, 2007
RALEIGH - Both the past and the future of the Dorothea Dix Mental Hospital is on the collective mind of Raleigh.
As the 306 acre mental hospital campus in downtown Raleigh is scheduled to be closed soon by the State of North Carolina, literally thousands of "Dix 306" bumper stickers and yard signs can be seen across Raleigh.
Even an art exhibit about the property will be on display through July 15th (see details below).
The "Dox 306" slogan refers to the push by Raleigh residents to turn the entire campus into a state or city park, preserving one of the few remaining undeveloped tracts of land in downtown Raleigh. Many want the property to be saved as a type of "Central Park" for Raleigh.
The state has not made a decision yet on the property and potential options include selling the property outright, creating some mix of development and park use, or selling the property to the City of Raleigh for use as a park.
Press Conference Today
At a press conference held this morning, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker pushed for the latter option and made an offer of $10.5 million to buy the land from the state.
"Preserving these last 306 acres is critical to the future of Raleigh and positions our state as one of vision and forethought," said Mayor Meeker at the meeting.
Three different park advocacy groups joined Mayor Meeker in asking for the property to be sold to the city to be used as a park.
"We plan to raise over $7 million from the private sector," said Gregory Poole, Jr. of the Dix Visionaries group. "We know how critical support from the business community will be to the success of this monumental project."
Poole is the former president of Gregory Poole Equipment, a large Caterpillar construction equipment dealer in Raleigh. Poole certainly has plenty of contacts in the business world to make such a deal happen.
Jay Spain, president of Friends of Dorothea Dix Park has also asked the state government to provide an opportunity for the park to be created.
"With the stroke of a pen, the General Assembly could create this park," he said. "They have yet to do so. We are still hopeful they will. But we are grateful for the city's offer to bear their resources for this opportunity that will benefit everyone."
Bill Padgett, organizer with the Dix306 campaign that has helped people place the signs in their yards, commented that if the state can step forward to save green space in other areas of the state, they should be able to do it in the capital city as well.
"Our state has recently shown great leadership in preserving Bird Island on the coast and Chimney Rock in the mountains and now with the leadership of Mayor Meeker, our General Assembly has the opportunity make the '306 vision' a reality," said Padgett.
"The people of NC are asking their elected officials to do what is right for future generations and save these precious 306 acres," he added.
Although these different groups may have a lot of work yet to do on winning over the state, it seems apparent that all of the groups realize that there is one shot to preserve the 306 acres as open space.
Open space of that size in downtown Raleigh is nonexistent and the only reason that the property has not been converted to commercial or residential use thus far is because the State of North Carolina has owned it.
Although the state government certainly has the obligation to make sure the property is disposed of properly and in a manner that represents the interests of all of the citizens of the state, the Dix Park advocates hope that they can persuade state officials to go with the idea of converting the 306 acre tract with rolling hills, tall trees, and historic buildings into public green space that everyone can enjoy.
In these times of fiscal budget belt-tightening for the state, that may be an uphill battle but with so many public officials, advocacy groups, and even business forces working together to try and make it happen, their dreams may become a reality.
Dorothea Dix Art Exhibit
They say timing is everything and local artist Rachel Herrick's exhibition entitled "Good Intentions: Dorothea Dix Hospital" is being presented at a time when her subject is certainly in the forefront of people's minds.
The exhibit features a new series of paintings by Herrick addressing the past, present and future of North Carolina 's mental health care system.
Herrick says she worked in cooperation with Dix Hospital to explore the hospital's campus and to "capture the evocative remains of its architecture as a kind of cultural landscape."
Her paintings will be at Crocker's Mark Gallery located at 613 West Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh until July 20th.
Herrick says that 25% of the sales from the exhibit will be donated to the Wake County branch of the National Alliance for Mental Illness.
For more information, the gallery can be reached at 919-612-7277 or 919-834-4961. ::