Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue will ask state leaders to lease the 325-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital campus to the city for $68 million over 75 years – a move that would enable Raleigh to fulfill its vision for a major urban park on a valuable tract of state land just south of downtown.
The Council of State will vote on whether to enter the lease deal at its meeting Tuesday. The 10-member panel of statewide leaders is majority Democrat but remains undecided about the governor’s plan.
Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory and GOP legislative leaders have asked the council to delay the decision until the new administration takes power in January.
Under the terms of the proposed deal announced Friday, the city would pay $500,000 a year to lease the land plus a 1.5 percent annual increase compounded over the length of the agreement. The city would be allowed to renew the lease for one 24-year period and gives the state limited oversight authority over the land’s use.
A state appraisal put the current value of the land at $58 million; the city of Raleigh estimated it at $35 million.
The City Council will discuss the proposal Tuesday in closed session. A provision of state law allows elected bodies to discuss real estate deals behind closed doors.
A public vote would be held the same day if the council chooses to take action, City Manager Russell Allen said.
If and when the land is designated for a park, the city will bring in consultants and hold multiple rounds of public dialogue to draw up a master plan for the grounds, Allen said.
“It will be a lengthy process,” Allen said. “That is the part that requires lots of participation. There will be lots of ideas.”
The proposed deal would allow the state to maintain its Department of Health and Human Services offices on the property for up to 15 years. Perdue’s administration is looking to consolidate the state agency on a new campus, but an effort to find a location remains unresolved.
Perdue aides said the proposal would give the incoming administration flexibility to design and implement a central campus in the next few years.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she is hopeful about achieving a breakthrough. “The will is there to make something happen,” McFarlane said last week.
McCrory and top GOP lawmakers called on the Council of State to delay action until next year.
N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger attacked Perdue directly, saying she was overstepping her bounds to “create a last-minute legacy.”
A McCrory spokesman said the governor-elect supports a delay “until he and the legislature can study the impact to North Carolina taxpayers and ensure it does not adversely impact the state.”
The resistance to Perdue’s plan left park advocates frustrated. Lucy Bode, a Raleigh resident and board member for the Dix Visionaries advocacy group, said the concept has already been well-vetted.
“Too many people have worked too hard for too long for this to not proceed in a manner which it should,” Bode said.
Perdue said Republican legislative leaders are misguided in saying talks are moving too quickly.
“Everybody knows I’ve been talking about it for three years,” Perdue told reporters last week. “If this is a rush, I’d hate to see a slow job.”
Staff writer Craig Jarvis contributed to this story.