Mission Statement
The purpose of the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park is to promote the establishment and support of a "World Class Destination Park" in North Carolina's Capital City on the Dorothea Dix campus, saving the existing open space and preserving the historically significant buildings.

White Paper Executive Summary

A Vision For The Future of Dix Campus

Prepared by
Greg Hummel
Jay Truty, Kalyna Procyk, Meg George and his team at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd LLC
Chicago Illinois

For Friends of Dorothea Dix Park 
An umbrella organization representing more than 30 organizations and 
Dix visionaries. A diversity of individuals, developers and companies.
October 10, 2006


This White Paper was commissioned by the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park, which is an umbrella organization representing more than 30 organizations, and the Dix visionaries, a diversity of individuals, developers and companies. Their essential purpose is to provide a resource to those considering the future of Dix Campus: In the short term, the Urban Land Institute Advisory Panel, and in the longer term, the citizens and elected officials of Raleigh and North Carolina.

The General Assembly of the State of North Carolina created the Dorothea Dix Hospital Study Commission (the “Dix Study Commission”) and charged it with recommending a course of action to the NC Legislature regarding the fate of the Dix Campus if not transferred to another government entity. Dix Campus’ future is fluid since the Dix Study Commission is now faced with a number of competing considerations.

First, let’s consider a number of matters important to the State of North Carolina (hereinafter, the “state”):

      • legacy of Dix Campus as the first mental health facility in North Carolina and constrained funding for the mental health needs of its citizens

      • historic preservation challenges and opportunities

      • desire to create one-time and/or on-going revenue streams for on-going mental health activities from the sale of the Dix Campus or portions thereof

      • desire to maintain, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) operation on Dix Campus

      • desire to move other state office operations on to Dix Campus or its environs

Next , consider the competing proposals for the Dix Campus the Dix Study Commission has received:

      • LandDesign – Alternative proposals for varying degrees of mixed use, retail, residential, health sciences, and open space ("City in the Park" and "Central Park").

      • City of Raleigh – Proposal for residential, recreation, learning, retail, mental health, and open space ("The Garden of Lights").

      • Friends of Dorothea Dix Park and the Dix Visionaries – the Vision expressed in this White Paper – namely, a great urban park anchoring a large redevelopment area linking by train or monorail Dix Park to both downtown Raleigh and the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University.

      • Wake County Botanical Gardens – Use all acreage for a botanic garden.

      • NC National Alliance on Mental Illness – All proceeds from any disposition to be transferred to a new, independent, statewide entity for the purpose of creating an endowment for funding community mental health grants to support services for the severely mentally ill.

      • Consortium of conservation and historic preservation organizations – Development of a public park on the existing open spaces, preservation of existing buildings that contribute to the designation of the National Register historic district status, office space for DHHS, provision of mental health services, and generation of revenue for Mental Health Trust Fund.

What the foregoing makes clear is the divergence of views regarding the use and reuse of the Dix Campus. The state’s desires and the various visions of these six proposers do share some overlap, but they conflict in a number of material ways:

The state is considering Dix Campus to:

  • Create income streams

  • Preserve historic structures

  • Continue to provision the DHHS services on Dix Campus

  • Consolidate other office services into or around Dix Campus

The proposals for the Dix Campus received by the Dix Study Commission fall into four categories grouped as follows:

  • The LandDesign and City of Raleigh proposals use major portions of the Dix Campus for mixed use residential, retail and other development in varying degrees.

  • The Wake County Botanical Gardens focuses on a gated, ticketed series of research gardens and facilities representing a wide range of habitats.

  • The National Alliance and the consortium of conservation, park and historic preservation proposals aspire to rebuild the central section of the main hospital building, and restore the significant historic structures by attracting the private sector to invest in these projects with NC & Federal historic tax credits; worthy goals, but at variance with realistic redevelopment around and reuse of Dix Campus.

  • The Friends of Dorothea Dix Park and the Dix Visionaries encompasses a broad vision, not only a great urban park, but also a large redevelopment area surrounding it linked to downtown and Centennial Campus, and continued operations of DHHS in Dix until it can be relocated to another desirable location within the next twenty to thirty years.

What conclusions can we draw from the desires of the State and the visions of these proposers? Several.

First, Dix Campus must be set in a much broader context geographically and programmatically.

Second, the priorities are too narrowly focused by the state and most of the proposers. The scope of the use and reuse of Dix Campus needs to be expanded. It cannot be primarily a question of mental health or state office use. Moreover, it is not only the state that needs a broader vision. The LandDesign and Raleigh plans are right to focus on mixed use. But, that focus needs to be on the edge of Dix Campus and more importantly in the neighborhoods that surround Dix campus. Simply selling the Dix Campus to the highest bidder for real estate development will not raise sufficient funds to meet the state’s objectives, much less the objectives of a number of proposers.

There is a better way. Namely, a large tax increment financing district (TIF district) that includes at its center Dix Campus and then extends beyond, first into the surrounding neighborhoods and then into downtown Raleigh and also over to and into Centennial Campus. Such a TIF district could become a platform that helps realize much of the composite vision for Dix Campus held by the state and the proposers. Moreover, tax increment financing attracts a long list of other public programs and private sector initiatives which will provide financial support for Dix Park and its surrounding neighborhoods. Also, the process of forming a large TIF district carries with it the opportunity to take the long view, since in North Carolina TIF districts can last 30 years.

By setting a broader context, many of the objectives of the state and most of the objectives of the various proposers can be addressed. A large tax increment financing district requires an eligibility study showing blight, and a redevelopment plan cataloguing existing conditions, both blighted and otherwise. Such a redevelopment plan would also describe how this blight will be eliminated and what projects will be undertaken to accomplish that end. It would also indicate how the projects will be financed using tax increment and other public and private revenue streams, and in what order sub-areas in the overall TIF district will be redeveloped, among several other things.

Such a TIF redevelopment plan arrayed with a number of other tools and strategies described below can be used to achieve a number of the goals embodied in the state’s and the proposers’ visions. One central issue, however, looms over this and really most other strategies respecting the reuse of the Dix Campus. In the charge to the ULI panel, the Dix Study Commission notes its long-standing position: The Dix Campus should remain an asset of the state’s mental health system. This will be a real challenge. And, this challenge will be magnified if the driving considerations of the state are expanded use of Dix Campus as state office locations.

There is a disconnect between using Dix Campus to generate income from the private sector (especially one time income events) and using it as an anchor for neighborhood revitalization and regional economic development, and at the same time respecting many of the state’s objectives like historic preservation and use of parts of the Dix Campus for ongoing state programs and activities is important.

In essence, the debate may be more one of timing and relative degree. The state can realize some income from private sector activities respecting the Dix Campus. That income can flow out of the tax increment itself. It will also flow out of using the tax increment as a way to attract funding from a wide range of other sources, both public and private. By creating this large TIF district, Raleigh will also be showing its commitment to a number of shared objectives and in this vital sense, will join with the state in a common plan of development and redevelopment. By so doing, Raleigh and the state will be able to qualify for a number of federal programs and private sector initiatives which enable an array of funding from multiple sources not available to any one governmental entity or private entity working alone.

There is more in common between Friends of Dorothea Dix Park and the Dix Visionaries and mixed use development than might be apparent. The key is where the mixed use development occurs. And, if planned in a broader context, in combination with a wide array of tax increment and other financing tools, then the goals of those who want (i) a great urban park and historic preservation of significant structures and those who want (ii) economic revitalization and new or enhanced streams of both public and private revenue can be achieved.

As noted above, the keys to this result are development on the edge of Dix Campus and in its adjacent neighborhoods with transit and other links to downtown Raleigh and certain of its adjacent neighborhoods and also links to Centennial Campus, especially where it meets Dix Campus.

Several threads run through this strategy. One is train and/or monorail transit and transit-oriented development. A second is a series of retail/entertainment destinations proceeding from downtown Raleigh over to Dix Campus and beyond to Centennial Campus. These retail entertainment uses could include a museum campus portion of Dix Campus and related retail. A third thread is having concentrated mixed use real estate development in contiguous and adjacent areas overlooking Dix Park, initially close to transit and university operations. The portion of Centennial Campus contiguous to Dix Campus may be a good location for housing. Later, other housing could locate at other areas along the edge of Dix Park. This housing component needs to be woven into sub-area planning for a series of neighborhoods that encircle Dix Campus. And, the sequence in which neighborhoods are developed and redeveloped is an area which warrants concentrated focus. We’ll discuss these neighborhoods and the order of this development and redevelopment in greater detail below.

In the charge to the ULI panel, the Dix Study Commission raised a host of questions typically answered in a redevelopment plan that creates a TIF District. In the balance of this White Paper, then, we’ll take up these and other questions and in the process provide some of the content which would form a basis for a redevelopment plan for a greater Dix Park TIF District.

This effort is necessarily preliminary. In one critical sense, it assumes too much. Namely, consensus on two key features – first, (i) a large area surrounding Dix Campus as the study area extending to downtown Raleigh on the East and North and beyond Centennial Campus on the West and (ii) (a) first, understanding and then, integrating the business plans of the downtown alliance in a redevelopment planning effort and (b) similarly understanding and integrating relevant aspects of the Centennial Campus master plan and NCSU’s strategic plan with this same redevelopment planning effort, and - second, consensus among the Dix Study Commission and the State of North Carolina and the City of Raleigh and the County of Wake respecting this approach.

Link to the rest of the White Paper in .pdf format