Central Prison brainstorming session

Unfortunately I was out of the country for the brainstorming session with the architects and urban planners.

Are there some results or findings online to find?

Thank you

I don’t see anything online showing any of the presentations, but I can tell you that most of the ideas revolved around extending the downtown grid into the site, memorializing the old prison wall, including new space for the Morehead School, and including mixed-use buildings with residential (some affordable), commercial, and health facilities. The evolution of the prison site from one of containment to one of freedom and openness was a major discussion point.

They did hint that this event will be followed at some point by Part 2, but as of now there are no firm plans.

1 Like

Is the state actually considering moving the Central Prison? I was under the impression it would be a Raleigh blight for centuries.

1 Like

I don’t believe so. The event was really just a brainstorming exercise for a hypothetical project.

Lol @francisco. Pretty much. I wish they would move it anywhere else but I can’t see the state government ever doing that


New N&O article on the topic



The state government is pretty anti-urban as currently constituted. I wouldn’t be shocked that they keep the prison there just to turn the screws into Raleigh/Dix’s revitalization efforts. Hope I’m wrong!

I’ve heard conflicting messages about the likelihood of this ever happening. One source I talked to seemed very optimistic about it happening in the near-ish future, while others were more skeptical.

FWIW, North Carolina currently houses more than 37,000 inmates in 55 state prison facilities. The state prison population has declined by more than 3,000 inmates since 2011, and those trends are expected to continue well into the future. If that trend does continue, it seems like that the state would need to decommission some prisons. By having a great plan in place for how to re-purpose the land, hopefully that would make it more likely that the state would select Central Prison as one of the prisons to close down.

By the time they would attempt to strike the Central Prison off the active list (20+ years down the line) that property will be the single most valuable property in all of Eastern North Carolina. Between Downtown Raleigh and what we assume would be a finished world class Central Park (Dix Park).

1 Like

It’s hard to imagine that that land won’t be so incredibly value as to offset any costs in demolition and building a new facility in a very short amount of time. Small lots in DTR are going for ~$5 million already.

I dug through the project’s website, and I noticed there’s a really important detail that hasn’t been mentioned anywhere else.

This project is NOT assuming that Central Prison is JUST getting rid of; the event is a three-part series of events, and the third one will talk about what a moved/new prison could look like. From an infographic on the website:

Part 03: on-the-ground New Prison facility design for rehabilitation & reentry; economic development plan for rural county in which it will be built

If this ever does happen, it would also be a really cool way to treat prison reform/criminal rehabilitation as a serious problem from a design perspective (instead of just a rallying cry for activists).

As for specific ideas being discussed… if I’m understanding that N&O article and the website right (I didn’t attend this either since I never knew it existed until 2 days ago), it looks like attendees broke up into six teams and came up with their own rough/big-picture ideas of what the land could be like. They can all be found on this page.

Some of the concepts look pretty conservative (even though attendees were told to pretend they’re “not currently bound by schedule, politics, or budget”) and like other modern transit-oriented developments, while others are pretty ambitious with ideas like casting land bridges over Western Blvd. or repurposing the prison walls as a memorial for past injustices.

However, most of them have a couple of things in common:

  • Land bridges over Western Blvd.
  • Reusing the old prison walls to memorialize past injustices (with varying degrees of obviousness)
  • Integration of people in the Morehead School into the larger area
  • Designing the area as a transition/buffer area for Dix Park

Thanks for sharing this, Keita! I noticed that the G-Team’s proposal incorporates urban gondolas. On Friday night, I actually was chatting with Don Bryson, who was on the G-Team and is a big fan of this idea. I’m personally somewhat curious whether Raleigh has or will have the density to make urban gondolas feasible, but I can tell you that Don is very enthusiastic about them and thinks they would be feasible here.

But I rather make Western cut and cover tunnel with a park extension on top.


That’s cool. Does this exist anywhere other than your imagination?

Oh, Netherlands, of course!

1 Like

I have seen these although not quite as asthethic in Shanghai

The MLK/Salisbury/Wilmington intersection screams for complexity if this is where the BRT route terminates.

Imagine cars moving as usual through a giant roundabout with the middle being a mini bus station for transfers from a few local buses to the BRT. Ped/bike ramps and tunnels would make it easy to get in and out of the circle. Traffic lights would also prioritize buses going in and out.



The former Soul City site in Warren County has a huge sewage treatment system, which has never been used as planned in the 1960s. The City never happened, but the feds build a huge WWTP. Central Prison would bring jobs to a region in need. The WWTP would require updates to meet today’s standards, but the “bones” are there. Governor?


Just looking at the map and in addition to the Central Prison + Governor’s School property (~80 acres), the Women’s Prison on the other end of MLK Blvd (~190 acres) is also a prime redevelopment opportunity. Between the two sites, homes for over 10,000 people could be built in an urban form connected to the existing grid, within 2 miles of the Capitol Building.

Just throwing this out there since we’re moving prisons anyway…


Totally agree with you on that one. I’ve often thought that myself.

As long as we’re talking about property in east Raleigh that the state government could sell, I’d love it if they also relocated the DMV buildings sitting in the area bounded by New Bern, State, Hargett and Tarboro.