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Deal on Dorothea Dix property in Raleigh could be revived

The report goes into detail about toxins in the ground under the 307 acres of the former mental hospital.
March 11, 2014 5:05:22 PM PDT
More than a year after Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane announced the land under the former Dorothea Dix mental hospital would be converted into a massive city park - and then the North Carolina General Assembly promptly scuttled the deal - the potential for a compromise lives again.

The former deal worked out between the City of Raleigh and former Governor Bev Perdue would have allowed Raleigh to lease the property for 99 years at about a half million dollars a year.

But Republican critics said it was a sweetheart deal that shortchanged taxpayers.

Now, both the state and the city done have done new appraisals and the city has wrapped up its environmental impact report - setting the stage for negotiations for the 307 acres that make up the former mental health care facility.

The city's appraisal came in around $38 million. The state's appraisal came in at $66 million. They're still far apart, but closer than they were last time around. In 2012, the state was using an appraisal around $88 million.

Click here to read the state appraisal (.pdf)

Click here to read the Raleigh appraisal (.pdf)

McFarlane says she's optimistic and that she and Governor Pat McCrory are both still committed to making a deal happen.

"At this point, it's a matter of sitting down and looking at both appraisals and looking at the methodologies and figuring those different numbers," said McFarlane.

As for the environmental impact statement, the mayor said she hadn't reviewed it yet. The state says an initial review showed nothing that would change the price too much.

? Click here to read the environmental report (.pdf) ?

Tuesday, the governor said he thinks a deal will get gone and that he wants a park to be built with a caveat. He wants the Department of Health and Human Services, which is currently headquartered there, to stay.

"My goal is to have a new and improved facility for DHHS integrated with a park, and my goal is to have both and Mayor MacFarlane and both teams continue to have very productive discussions."

A spokesman for the state tells us they want 60 of the 307 acres that make up the Dix property as a place to consolidate DHHS.

The problem is that supporters of turning this property into a destination park for the City of Raleigh, much like Central park in New York, worry about lopping off about a fifth of the land. They say that changes the deal, and could be a deal breaker.

McFarlane hasn't gone that far and agrees that talks with the governor have been productive. However, she has said from the beginning that ideally the city wants the full property for its park.

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