Dorothea Dix Park



Hoping to start a conversation surrounding Dix park planning. The master plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, with some improvements and programming already taking place, like J.Cole’s Dreamville Festival in September. Although not in many folks’ official downtown boundary, Dix is considered an urban park project, and I believe I’ve heard it’s the largest urban park project in the country at the moment. With all the proposed growth in the South street/West street area like the 87 unit condo building across from Boulted Bread, coupled with the recommended area of new development opportunity within the park along Lake Wheeler rd, I see downtown extending to the southwest already.

Following the last workgroup meeting and public presentation, it’s clear that about half of the 80+ buildings on Dix campus have been recommended to be renovated and repurposed for commercial use. The viable existing buildings, especially those surrounding the original hospital, have been recommended to be transformed into museums, hotels, restaurants, conservatories, breweries, concert halls, food halls, sports facilities, and other uses to create a dense, walkable area of commerce. Dix park will become a destination for much more than leisure and nature bathing; a center of gravity that will draw downtown toward it.

One of the first constraints the design team discussed was access. The campus was designed to keep people out, and Western boulevard is perhaps the single largest obstacle to overcome. The master plan will undoubtedly account for this, and I think many of you who lament Western/MLK’s presence just south of DTR will be happy with the recommended changes that will come out of the Dix plan. Land bridges, pedestrian bridges, gondolas, oh my!

Obviously I’m a fervent supporter of the park and stand to personally benefit from it’s development, as I live down Lake Wheeler rd. I love hearing new ideas for it, so if you have any please post them here. And check out the latest public presentation from the design team:

View from top of Dix hospital:


I started out on the buildings committee (have been out of town for each meeting since the first though) and can say the committee was unanimous in aiming to reuse as many buildings as possible. They are actually oriented in a way that makes this possible (warehouses clustered in the rear of the hospital, dorms along Lake Wheeler, chapel situated near supporting buildings), while still have large swaths of uninterrupted green space. This revenue is extremely important in helping non-revenue producing aspects of the park become possible. In addition to breaching the Western Blvd divide,‘turning around’ the Farmer’s Market and making it a seamless part of the Park’s layout and experience is just as important IMO. Your Walnut Creek Greenway connection is likely to be down that direction too, making the Park a central stopping point along our huge greenway system…it’s potentially the perfect nexus. Park there, bike a 30 mile loop to Anderson Pt, up Crabtree, down House Creek to Meredith and along Rocky Branch back to Dix. Have a sandwich and a beer afterwards. If Cary finishes its connection to the ATT then you could hit a similar ride in that direction.
One last thought, is that I think you can easily incorporate some affordable senior housing on the edge of the Park, perhaps using one or more of the old dorms along Lake Wheeler. Giving retirees easy access to the outdoors is an important asset I think.


I’m a huge fan of a lot of these ideas, too! How as many buildings as reasonably possible are getting recycled, how there’s a lot of event and recreational space being planned, access, financial sustainability (which I noticed was a huge problem for Central Park in NYC),… I’m really glad to see this committee being thorough and thoughtful about what they’re coming up with.

I do have a few thoughts/questions, though, if y’all don’t mind…

1/4: Partnerships
It’s my understanding that partnerships for the park are mainly to engage stakeholder companies and institutions to seek input from/get help with operating elements of the park. I definitely think that’s a good idea, but I feel like it could go one step even further to ensure it engages everyone possibly involved.

I think any attempts at making a partnership between the park and its neighbors need to be able to outlast those neighbors themselves. In other words, I saw a lot of potential input from NGOs, public institutions, and possibly advocacy organizations, but not so much for direct citizen input; are there any plans to allow for continued citizen input even if these potential partners change or disappear over time? Neighborhood campaigns to engage neighbors to park-related discussions by going door-to-door, for example?

(Just to explain why I’m concerned about this, let’s say a nearby resident or NC State student wants to voice his/her voice. If an affiliated interest group doesn’t get the message through or the school does a poor job pulling off their engagement event, could it be possible to let individuals engage with park decisions directly in a non-political way?).

2/4: Hospital Wing
I like the idea of using this as a hotel (see slides 100-105), and I also thought about maybe even using that as an affordable housing site (or maybe even short-term housing to quickly rehabilitate people who are homeless and/or recently out of prison, since it’s so close to people coming in from all walks of life!?) …though that makes me worried about zoning problems (see my Lake Wheeler comments), an unprecedented social experiment, and possible traffic problems (see slides 116-117 and lack of parking or adjacent transit).

3/4: The Portico (facade of old front entryway)
I can totally see myself wanting to regularly put up photos from here on Instagram (see slides 118-121). It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the original structure anymore so we can’t use the entire pavilion (so the two hospital wings look physically disconnected, even if they’re spiritually unified), though.

4/4: Lake Wheeler Rd.
I noticed you set aside parts of this area for future uses (see slides 57-60). If we want new development for these places to be a good transition between the park and the Southern Gateway area, will there need to be zoning changes? (Also, what development strategy would work best, and how can we make sure they won’t look awkward and/or super-gentrifying?)

I also like @Mark’s idea of putting up affordable housing along Lake Wheeler Rd. since it’s a good opportunity to pull that off… this could quickly become prime real estate whose land values could skyrocket, or it could be barraged by developers who want to convert them to market-rate housing like they’re doing in eastern DTR. What can we do to ensure this idea (if it does happen) won’t get corrupted?


From what i’ve read it looks like the park planners have been hosting a number of community engagement meetings and there is still one more scheduled for October. There also looks to be a website for community feedback too:

@evan.j.bost Thanks for making this topic, this is a super exciting opportunity for Raleigh! For those not familiar or up to date with the development of the park, I found this presentation from a few weeks back is very informative:


Land bridge from Dix to Pullen Park, Farmer’s Market integration into the Dix Park plan. Yes, gimme, gimme.


Thanks Evan, good info


Well…it’s all Good as far as Planning, “BUT” when is Construction going to start on Dix Park ??? So much talk about what to do with the park, and not any construction activities going on. :thinking:


Like every city of Raleigh park, the Dix process moves from discovery to design to contract to construction phases. We’re currently forming the master plan which will be finished this year. From there the city and Dix park conservancy will have to prioritize what construction happens first, and I assume it will need to be a revenue producing improvement such as renovating buildings for leasable space, or selling ground leases to developers for new construction. Perhaps the landscape architect Van Valkenburgh will help with prioritizing construction as his firm designed Brooklyn Bridge Park among other big park projects. What’s unique about Dix is the scale of it and investment the city has already put in. It’s going to cost a lot and take a long time but it will get built.


Re: The Hospital Wing, I like where you’re going with some of these ideas, but I also thing there’s a conflict of uses if this is to be a destination park. Can you imagine people coming to play with their kids or see a concert, while a rehabilitation center for homeless people is housed right smack in the middle of this entertainment complex? It seems a little strange. As for affordable housing, the size of the rooms (10x10 and 10x20) are also more suited to hotel than to long term housing, as is the location. We want affordable housing to be located closer to public transit (assuming it gets better), or at least walkable to jobs and amenities. The middle of a park is a little isolated from all of that. I totally agree that this is an important issue though, and your other suggestion of putting affordable housing along Lake Wheeler Road makes a lot of sense.

Re: The Portico, I actually think the discontinuity of the structure is a great opportunity! It provides a natural passageway through to a vista with views toward downtown. Having the entire original building would’ve created a harsh barrier with little porosity in that direction.

Thanks @evan.j.bost for posting the presentation… I hadn’t been keeping up with the plans and am really excited to see where it goes. I’m also impressed with the pace of progress.


Would love to see one or more of the buildings here dedicated to small, affordable retail and restaurant spaces.

For example:
MAJI Square - Taipei, Taiwan
The Watershed @ V&A Waterfront - Cape Town, SA
Waterfront Food Market - Cape Town, SA

Also, some inspiration for master plans:
Huashan 1914 - Taipei, Taiwan
A former sake factory turned in to shops, restaurants, performance spaces, ect.

LX Factory - Lisbon, Portugal
Historical industrial complex turned in to shops and restaurants.


Dix Park is definitely a multi-decades project, and I personally think that’s fine. The real danger was losing it to development, so now that the city has it and we can already enjoy the green space, I think it’s best if they take their time and do it right.

As far as development goes, the west side will be dominated by a new neighborhood in Spring Hill, and there will be redevelopment on the east side according to the Southern Gateway plan.

As far as “defining” downtown, I don’t think this will ever be considered part of downtown but it will hopefully grow into its own urban neighborhood, which will represent a step in Raleigh’s growth as a city with multiple distinct urban neighborhoods.


I just heard on WRAL-TV that the City of Raleigh fireworks is officially being moved from downtown back to the State Fair Grounds. My guestion is why not simply put them on the Dorothea Dix Park grounds? Pleanty of room for safety, seating, great views (no buildings to block the view/there reason for moving them back). Plus has the city been trying hard to showcase DDP?


I don’t think they have a good way to get that many people to park and or shuttle to Dix yet.


It’s unfortunate that they aren’t using Dix for the fireworks. I know it seems like Dix is so far away, but it’s only a 20 min walk from Nash Square, and that’s if you stick to sidewalks and take no shortcuts. Between the farmers market lot and decks downtown, coupled with ubers, bicycles, rickshaws, short term rerouting of the R-Line, etc. I don’t see how it would be a huge inconvenience to get people in and out, plus it’s a hilltop so the display would be visible from all over downtown area…


I don’t know. First a lot of people aren’t going to walk to Dix from downtown. It’s really inconvenient. I do it all the time but I live right across the street and I’m familiar with the neighborhood. Handling all the cars would be a mess. It was stop and go traffic on Western until 2am last year after the fireworks (and subsequent partying) so I don’t know how crowded things would be if Dix were the actual destination. Maybe not as bad if you have people park at the Farmer’s Market and/or Centennial.

The other question I had is where would the stage the fireworks. They probably don’t want to be shooting them off in the middle of the field. A parking lot maybe but when I went for a run there were a lot of people working over there today. Is one day enough time to set up fireworks?

Is there a fireworks technician on this board ? :slight_smile:


@JosABanks - I don’t know of a fireworks technician on this board but, regardless, fireworks do still seem to be shot off from time to time … :wink:


State Fairgrounds is notvrhe place for fireworks, middle of nowhere, parking is awful and traffic is a nightmare.
Stopped going years ago with it out there.
Find a place near downtown that works, even if a new place for years to come.


Screw the fireworks… I’ll be downtown at the BNL concert :smile:


:man_shrugging: Beats me…
having the fireworks displayed at Dix Park would make a better choice. Why the Hell all the way at the fairgrounds ???.. Isn’t what having activities at Dix Park is all about. I Just don’t understand this Town to save my own Neck.


I live really close to the fairgrounds… I’m not gonna go tho cuz I’m not 10 and I don’t want to deal with the crowds anyway. Maybe I can see them from my house like the fair fireworks :fireworks: