A park for everyone, built by everyone. That’s the guiding principle of the Dix Park design, and what planners have worked hard to stick true to. With over 65,000 residents providing input over the last year and a half through public meetings and online platforms like Neighborland, the Dix process has sought to be inclusive and thorough in it’s methods for reaching the public. Dix Park is so exciting because it’s so revolutionary – an ability to preserve a natural oasis in the middle of a burgeoning and growing city center will create unique and iconic civic spaces that will be gathering places for generations to come.
If you want to know more about the master plan process and the key players, read the entire 250(ish) page Master Plan document or the official executive summary and FAQ here. We highly recommend taking a look for yourself.
For a summary focused on the principles driving conversation at Raleigh4All, read on!
The Dix Park master plan lays out a vision for the next decades of design that will be needed to create a visionary and inclusive park for all the citizens of Raleigh. For over a year, community members, city staff, appointed advisory board and workgroups, plus local and international designers have been working on the Dix Park master plan. During one of the most engaging processes that the City of Raleigh has ever undertaken, design feedback, directly from citizens, on park features, desires, impressions and more have been documented. What has arisen from this curated design by committee is a plan that is at once both visionary in parts and also quite a bit of a compromise.
Are there visionary and goal-setting ideas captured in the Dix Park Master Plan? Yes. Does the entire document feel Raleigh-grown, unique or groundbreaking? Not always. Are there gaps in what’s outlined so far? Absolutely.
The Dix Park planners have taken basic design structures and peppered in a little bit of everything that everyone asked for in the public process. Anyone familiar with public design knows that means that at the moment almost no one is completely happy because they feel that something someone else has asked for is getting in the way of what they have asked to be in the Park.
We very much want to see Dix Park moving forward with Master Plan adoption. We want to see it moving forward with more good design, more local design input, more citizen engagement and even stronger visions so the multi-faceted stakeholders of Dix Park all feel heard.
Perhaps that’s the best lesson for looking forward. Can we as citizens continue to find consensus and move this critical project forward? Can we solidly depend on future design processes with public input that will allow everyone to dig into the details?
The Master Plan sets noble principles by which to judge our future designs: to Open Up and Connect, to Build From What Is There, and finally to Offer Something for Everyone. Let’s adopt the vision and then move forward together to create something that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Let’s make Dix Park reflect the values unique to Raleigh and truly become a park that is for everyone.
What’s actually in the plan.
The Master Plan acknowledges four major themes that grew out of the public planning process and the desires that Raleigh has for the park: conversion of the existing campus site into a park, fostering a sense of place and wellness, aspiration to build democratic and inclusive civic space, and restoration of natural landscapes.
The central concept for Dix Park is actually the tension between built environment and natural landscape which has been a part of the long history of Dix becoming a park. One of many underlying ideas is to “Bring together park spaces that are urban and civic with those that are natural and boundless, and celebrate that contrast” (DPMP p.23).
The concept places a park that is pastoral reminiscent of the history of Dix of 19th century designs interspersed with a 21st century active urban park. The pastoral portions of the park build on the naturalistic beauty that is currently found in Dix Park primarily by restoring more natural systems: enlarging the grove of hardwood trees, replacing the field with a Piedmont meadow complete with pollinator friendly plants, and of a restored Creek bed stretching 100 feet into the park from the edge with Western Boulevard. These restored natural features juxtapose and complete the more active features of the design: a proposed amphitheater on the southern edge of the park, a redevelopment of the original hospital building, converting buildings into event halls and venues, parking areas into plazas.
These activating uses are seen both as ways to bring people to the park to do more as well as build revenue-generating sources which could to stay in the future of the park. (The balance of active/pastoral is described on DPMP p.162-163)
When you dig a little deeper into the Master Plan, you find the structure of the document lays out the plan into landscapes, organizational framework and circulation, activity programming and implementation phases. Across the bulk of the document, the extensive site research, historical context, layers of ecology, diverse means of access, the goals of equity and inclusiveness, the real community work and discussion that have played into the creation of this vision become apparent.
The Master Plan breaks out the details of what the park could look like as it’s developed fully and acts as an aspiration document to help guide that process. The strategy for implementing all of these park features outlined in the Master Plan are broken down into four phases, with Phase A listed as the anticipated first phase. It’s anticipated that Phase A would occur over the next decade or so, and includes the following improvements.
After Phase A is implemented, the park’s master plan indicates any of the following phases could be implemented and that B-D do not need to be sequential (B, C, D).
That was a lot to unpack but we hope this summary gets you familiar with the official vision for Dix Park and as excited as we are for the transformation opportunity that lies ahead. Look out for more Dix Park conversations and ideas!
The final public meeting for Dix Park will be held on February 6th at the Raleigh Convention Center from 6pm – 8pm. Be sure to mark your calendars and RSVP here to attend. Stay up to date on the park process on their website, here.