WPTF Features

NC Mental Hospital Land Deal Complete With Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Gov. Beverly Perdue and Raleigh's mayor said Friday that the final agreement to turn the grounds of a now-closed state mental hospital into a regional park will protect green space in North Carolina for generations.

Perdue signed documents at an old Capitol building ceremony for the lease of the 325-acre Dorothea Dix property to the city for at least 75 years at a cost of up to $68 million. The agreement also includes an additional 24-year option.

Raleigh government leaders and city boosters plan to turn the tract into a "destination park" like those in New York and Atlanta. The idea has been brewing for years. Dix hospital closed this past summer after more than 150 years.

Perdue, a Democrat, wanted to get an agreement in place before she leaves office next week. The Council of State, comprised of Perdue and other elected statewide officials, signed off on the lease deal in early December.

"It's decisions like these today that ensure that for at least the next 75 years - and longer, I pray - this land will be held in a sacred public trust ... for the people of North Carolina," Perdue said before the signing. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall also attended to place the state's embossed seal on the agreement, which takes effect Monday.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said at the ceremony that city leaders are "going to work very hard and turn this into something the state will cherish for years to come."

About 1,800 state Health and Human Services employees still work in buildings on the Dix property just south of downtown. Workers can remain there for up to 15 years, but the city's annual lease payment will be reduced based on the portion of the land occupied.

Republican legislative leaders had sought to delay the deal until after the incoming General Assembly and Gov.-elect Pat McCrory were sworn in next month for their review. Others said the state was entering a bad deal for taxpayers.


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