Raleigh to cover nearly $5 million shortfall for major construction project at Dorothea Dix Park
Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina, is set to cover a budget shortfall of nearly $5 million for the first major construction project at Dorothea Dix Park, one of the largest public parks in the city. The park spans over 308 acres and is located near downtown Raleigh. Construction on the Gipson Play Plaza, the first phase of the project, began last year and is expected to open in 2025. The plaza will feature playgrounds, water features, gardens, cookout areas, and other amenities that will make the park a family-friendly destination.
Despite inflation and supply chain issues plaguing construction projects, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin has emphasized the importance of moving forward with the project. “We need to find a way to do it and be creative,” she said. “And I’m just really excited to start moving forward and getting this first phase off the ground because that’s going to make all the difference in fundraising and moving forward.”
The original budget for the project was set at $67 million, which included a $20 million donation from the Dix Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that works with the city to raise money for the park. However, bids for the project have come in higher than expected, resulting in a $4.9 million budget gap.
To cover the shortfall, city staff made the following recommendations:
- Move $2.4 million allocated for other Dix Park projects from the 2022 parks bond.
- Move $1.1 million in facility fees.
- Accept another $1.5 million donation from the Conservancy.
On Tuesday, the Raleigh City Council voted 6-2 in favor of these changes. However, two council members, Christina Jones and Megan Patton, expressed concerns about the use of facility fees to cover the budget gap.
When developers construct homes and other residential buildings, they pay an open space fee that the city uses to build or expand parks in the same area. The city had planned to use $1.1 million of these fees to cover the budget gap for the plaza. Patton expressed her hesitation, stating that using facility fees for the project was causing her a “little bit of heartburn.”
Jones also expressed her concerns about the amount of money being allocated to Dix Park. “It’s a lot of money to give to one park that got a very large chunk of the bond,” she said. “And I just want to make sure that we’re actively making sure that all parks are served in that district.”
Despite these concerns, the majority of the council voted in favor of the recommendations. The Gipson Play Plaza is set to be the first of many developments at Dorothea Dix Park, with plans for a range of projects including new gardens, recreational spaces, and cultural attractions. The park is expected to be a major draw for tourists and locals alike, providing a much-needed green space in the heart of the city.
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