The largest park project in the United States is underway at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, North Carolina. The city purchased the Dorothea Dix campus from the State of North Carolina in 2015 with the intent of creating a great destination park in the heart of the community. This year, Raleigh City Council adopted the Dorothea Dix Park Master Plan, and now an implementation plan is underway for Phase 1. Designed to span decades, the creation of the 300 acre park will include the site of North Carolina’s first mental hospital.
The Dorothea Dix Park development is the largest park project in the country and has been dubbed “the most exciting and important urban park project in America today” by the former director of the NYC Parks System. In 2016, the city of Raleigh, in partnership with the Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy, embarked on the Master Plan process to create the new park. Over the next two and a half years the City, along with the consultant team led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, held an extensive public engagement process in which 65,000 community members participated by sharing their ideas for the future of Dorothea Dix Park.
The redevelopment will transform a former psychiatric hospital building into a boutique hotel to help offset the park’s cost. At the same time, the project aims to provide an arts space, a community incubator, sports courts, and botanic gardens. The design will also repurpose an old rail line on the property to link different sections of the park. Dorothea Dix Park is currently serving as a community space, hosting moonlight movie screenings, community yoga, and music festivals. On July 13th, Dorothea Dix Park will be the site of Destination SunFest where the public is invited to celebrate the bloom of five acres of sunflowers set against the backdrop of downtown Raleigh.
The Master Plan is the beginning of a much more detailed public process to plan and design the park in phases. While the Master Plan outlines the overall vision and framework for the park, it remains flexible and responsive to evolving community values and needs over time. As the planning and design moves forward, community members will have numerous opportunities to be involved in shaping how the City brings the vision of the Master Plan to life.
In the coming year, redevelopment of existing mental hospital buildings will begin, as well as improvements to the park to enhance the visitor experience.