RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A massive overhaul for Dorothea Dix Park is underway.
The City of Raleigh acquired the park in 2015 with the hope of making it a main attraction for locals and visitors.
“It’s going to be a destination park and our goal is to build the park for everyone,” said Dix Park Conservancy chair, Orage Quarles. “There will be something for someone who’s 2 years old and someone who’s 80 years old.”
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services occupies a number of buildings on the Dix Park campus.
As they prepare to move to a new location in 2025, the city is now tasked with deciding what to do about 80 aging buildings the department is moving out of. They also have to consider how to fund the $10 million in park maintenance that the DHHS typically pays every year.
About half of those buildings will need to be demolished because they’re too costly to renovate or won’t return an investment worth the upgrades.
City staff say even buildings they keep will likely need some degree of work to bring them up to code. Utility systems will also have to be replaced to support the future park.
City staff are hoping to repurpose some buildings. Staff have recommended turning the Brown Building into a concessions area for people visiting the future Gibson Play Plaza at the park. They’ve also proposed a conversion of the old Lindenberg Building into a new park headquarters.
“As we try to protect the legacy of the park, when we look at every building, we want to make sure are we taking this building down for the right reasons and are we going to reuse it for the right reasons,” Quarles said.
Development isn’t just happening inside the park. Construction is underway for new apartments and mixed-use developments at its borders.
“The economic impact to the city is going to be tremendous,” Quarles said.
The city is considering taking advantage of this new tax base by implementing a new tax district to pay for long-term maintenance of the park. It could cost property owners an extra 10 cents per $100 valuation. Depending on the extent of development in the area surrounding Dix Park, the rate could generate up to $5 million a year in tax revenue.
If approved, city staff say the tax would not impact single-family homes. Excluding them is an effort to battle concerns of rising property tax rates for long-time homeowners who may see property values and taxes increase as a result of nearby development.
“The city and their partners are investing a lot in the park and the transportation infrastructure and the properties closest to the park will benefit from this level of service and amenities,” said Kate Pearce, the city’s senior planner for Dorothea Dix Park, told councilmembers during an update of the project.
It’s a proposal the city council will hear more about next month. For now, Quarels looks forward to the park’s future impact.
“We’re just seeing a tip of it. As the buildings come down within the park and as buildings go up outside the park, more and more people want to move near the park, closer to downtown and all the action,” Quarles said.