To echo many of the sentiments in the comments already, the touting of Dix as a “destination park” for visitors statewide is ludicrous. Similarly, the comparisons to the great public spaces of Central Park, Millenium, or Presidio are equally poor arguments. A better comparison, at best, would be Piedmont Park in Atlanta (a pastoral design, former farmland, 1 mile from downtown, with a mix of flexible and programmed uses). Even Piedmont is more urban and in a relatively dense neighborhood with commercial/mixed-use space nearby to the west of the park. Outside of Raleigh’s small downtown core and few other development nodes, it is a decidedly suburban city in nature.
With that being said, the decision to create a park out of the Dix property was the right decision, and its success will ultimately come down to the various stakeholder’s (City, State, CACs, advocates, etc) willingness to fully-embrace an innovative DESIGN of the park and its context. Preservationists may push for maintaining the entire park as-is with its wide fields, majestic trees, and picturesque pathways. This, in my opinion, would be a complete failure. The same twelve people that use the park now (a couple guys who fly R/C planes, the Boylan residents who let their dogs run and poop) would continue to be the sole users. There are already areas within the park that will be forced to be preserved due to being in a floodplain or built upon landfill.
If the city wants a true urban park (and one that caters to all Raleigh residents, not just the ITB folks), it will need to utilize the remaining areas as high-volume, revenue-generating, and aesthetically bold uses. This not only means re-purposing the existing buildings for adaptive re-use, but targeting strategic areas to build dense commercial space (restaurant, grocery, entertainment, etc) within, and/or immediately adjacent to, the park. With a healthy $3mill so graciously set aside for planning by Mr. Poole and others, it would greatly benefit the city to reach out to the most innovative urban design firms (ie, MVA, Field Operations, West 8, SWA…) rather than settling for the antiquated status quo of design that is rampant in North Carolina. A symbiotic blend of modern urban space as a public-private partnership (and economic engine) with a beautiful park-like setting could potentially satisfy the right (lovers of God/money) and the left (lovers of trees/squirrels). Everyone in Raleigh would live happily ever after.
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