Development Beat: City Seeks Qualified Consultants for Dix Park Master Plan

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The City of Raleigh is looking for all the help it can get when it comes to planning the future of downtown’s Dorothea Dix Park.

In July, City Council appointed 45 Raleigh residents — selected by City staff out of a pool of more than 400 applicants — to serve on the Dix Master Plan Advisory Committee. In addition, Council established a Master Plan Executive Committee made up of eight high-profile individuals, including Mayor Nancy McFarlane. A full list of the members of both committees can be found at the bottom of this article.

While the advisory committee will “focus on public engagement and in leading topic-specific workgroups that will inform the park’s vision and planning process,” the executive committee will allocate funds and work to select a team of professional consultants that will help lead the master planning process.

On Monday of this week, the search for that aforementioned team of professionals began in earnest, when the City issued a Request for Qualifications seeking a group that will provide “consulting services for the development of a master plan for Dorothea Dix Park.”

dixrfq1

While there aren’t a lot of specifics contained in the RFQ about what it is, exactly, this team will be doing, we should point out that the goal of this solicitation is to winnow down a presumably large pool of applicants into a “prioritized list of firms.” Once that list has been determined, those firms will be issued Request for Proposal packages, which will likely delve more deeply into the specifics of what will be required of them for the project.

The current RFQ package does offer some insight into some of the questions the consulting team will work to resolve, including:

  • How will this site be seamlessly integrated into other regional assets such as the North Carolina Museum of Art, State Farmer’s Market, Pullen Park and North Carolina State University?
  • What strategies would you apply to sustain ongoing active civic engagement during a multiyear planning process?
  • How will the history of the campus be memorialized, respected and celebrated?
  • How will you determine the cultural significance of the landscape?
  • How can the landfill be integrated and repurposed into the landscape?
  • What future uses should be at Dix Park?

In addition, the team will work toward a number of goals for Dix that will allow the park to do things like “Demonstrate the successful rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of strategic historic resources” and “Enhance Raleigh as a center for culture, business, education and innovation.”

Several of the goals are quite lofty, and many would make for pretty interesting discussion topics. Our favorite: “Incorporate at a most fundamental level the notions of sustainability and the relationship between the health of the human spirit and landscape.”

Fitness Classes are one of the many communal activities available at Dix Park

Fitness Classes are one of the many communal activities available at Dix Park

The RFQ notes that “Several professional disciplines will be required to achieve the goals” laid out in the package, and recommends that “responding teams include, at minimum, expertise in landscape architecture; urban design; land use planning; cultural resources planning; historic preservation; transportation planning; engineering; sustainability; community outreach and engagement; programming, operations and management; and market economics.”

That’s a lot of expertise! It’s worth noting that the City is already under contract with both a surveying and an environmental engineering firm, with whom the consultants will be expected to work.

At this point, the City expects to award a contract to the chosen consulting team by March 2017, at which point the Master Planning Process will officially kick off.

A map of Dix provided in the RFQ

A map of Dix provided in the RFQ

As it happens, I wrote an article more than three-and-a-half years ago about the future of Dix Park (this was before the state legislature reneged on the original sale to the city) where I got to interview John Hoal, an architect involved in some early conceptual planning for Dix.

He was a really interesting guy, and spoke at length about how the master planning process for a public park generally works. You can read the article here, but we imagine the question on most people’s minds is: how long will this take?

According to Hoal, the master planning of a park has never taken less than 18 months to complete and tends to follow roughly the same trajectory, regardless of its size or city of origin. We’ve heard the City of Raleigh expects the master planning process for Dix to take about two years.

Given the already large number of people involved in the process — in addition to the 45 advisory committee members, there will also be a host of “subcommittee” members — two years sounds optimistic.

The master planning process will be followed by design, bidding and construction phases that could add an indeterminate amount of years to the overall project timeline.

Those anxious to see the 308-acre site transformed into a “world-class destination” sooner rather than later should bear in mind that even without traditional park amenities, Dix is already a wonderful place to visit. We can’t wait to see how much better it will become.

Dix Park

James Borden

Dix Park

As promised, here are the names of the Master Planning Executive & Advisory Committees.

Executive members include: Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Councilor Kay Crowder, Parks & Rec Director Diane Sauer, Ken Bowers, the City’s Planning Director, Randy Woodson, the Chancellor of NC State and three members of the Dix Park Conservancy — Jim Goodmon, the CEO of Capitol Broadcasting,  Carlton Midyette, a vice president at the commercial real estate firm CBRE and Orage Quarles III, the former publisher of the News & Observer.

Here’s a list of the advisory committee members we stole directly off a City of Raleigh website:

  • Jacquie Ayala, Environment and Natural Resources Education Parks and Recreation
  • James Benton, History Mobility Neighborhoods and Communities Parks and Recreation
  • Roderick Brown, Education Neighborhoods and Communities Youth
  • Walter Cole, Arts and Cultural Resources Business and Entrepreneurship Education
  • Son Duong, Community Health Environment and Natural Resources Parks and Recreation
  • Brent Francese, Business and Entrepreneurship Community Health Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers)
  • Daniel Gottlieb, Arts and Cultural Resources Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Environment and Natural Resources Parks and Recreation
  • Mary Ruffin Hanbury, Arts and Cultural Resources Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) History
  • Jenny Harper, Arts and Cultural Resources History Tourism
  • Greg Hatem, Business and Entrepreneurship History Neighborhoods and Communities Real Estate and Development
  • Ebony Haywood, Business and Entrepreneurship Education Youth
  • Thomas Hester, Arts and Cultural Resources Real Estate and Development Youth
  • Myrick Howard, Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) History Real Estate and Development
  • John Johnston, Business and Entrepreneurship Education Neighborhoods and Communities
  • Carly Jones, Arts and Cultural Resources Education Neighborhoods and Communities Parks and Recreation Youth
  • Aly Khalifa, Arts and Cultural Resources Business and Entrepreneurship Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers)
  • Bill King, Arts and Cultural Resources Business and Entrepreneurship History Mobility Neighborhoods and Communities Real Estate and Development
  • Jai Kumar, Community Health Education Neighborhoods and Communities Youth
  • Charles Leffler, Business and Entrepreneurship Education Neighborhoods and Communities Real Estate and Development
  • Caroline Lindquist, Business and Entrepreneurship Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Environment and Natural Resources
  • Chris MacPherson, Business and Entrepreneurship Parks and Recreation Tourism
  • Wayne Maiorano, Arts and Cultural Resources Business and Entrepreneurship Community Health Parks and Recreation Real Estate and Development
  • David Millsaps, Business and Entrepreneurship Education Parks and Recreation
  • Dr. Tony L. Mitchell, Business and Entrepreneurship Education Neighborhoods and Communities
  • Joan Moravick, Business and Entrepreneurship Education Parks and Recreation
  • Annie Lloyd Nesbitt, Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Mobility Parks and Recreation
  • Shana Overdorf, Community Health Neighborhoods and Communities Parks and Recreation
  • Bill Padgett, Environment and Natural Resources Education Neighborhoods and Communities
  • Julie Paul, Arts and Cultural Resources Business and Entrepreneurship Real Estate and Development
  • Charles Phaneuf, Arts and Cultural Resources Neighborhoods and Communities Parks and Recreation
  • Robert Poston, Education Parks and Recreation Youth
  • Sara Prado, Environment and Natural Resources Mobility Neighborhoods and Communities
  • Brian Pressley, Business and Entrepreneurship Community Health Real Estate and Development
  • Megg Rader, Arts and Cultural Resources Community Health Environment and Natural Resources
  • Sarah Reeves, Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Environment and Natural Resources Real Estate and Development
  • William Ross, Community Health Environment and Natural Resources Parks and Recreation
  • Amy Simes, Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Environment and Natural Resources Parks and Recreation
  • Ashton Smith, Arts and Cultural Resources Business and Entrepreneurship Real Estate and Development
  • Joey Stansbury, Faith History Neighborhoods and Communities
  • Matthew Tomasulo, Arts and Cultural Resources Business and Entrepreneurship Community Health Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Neighborhoods and Communities
  • Edward Vinson, Business and Entrepreneurship Neighborhoods and Communities Real Estate and Development
  • Joe Whitehouse, Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Real Estate and Development Tourism
  • Kimberly Wicker, Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Neighborhoods and Communities Parks and Recreation
  • Andrew Williams, Neighborhoods and Communities Real Estate and Development Youth
  • Larry Zucchino, Design Professions (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planners, Engineers) Environment and Natural Resources Real Estate and Development

5 thoughts on “Development Beat: City Seeks Qualified Consultants for Dix Park Master Plan

  1. It seems kind of wasteful to hire a planning firm when the city has hired a parks planner specifically for this project. The planner was, ironically, hired by the City away from a planning consultant that works on projects such as these. Why spend twice the money when you have someone you already hired to do the job? Someone with the exact experience you’re looking for?

  2. Its exciting to see that so many people are involved. I hope that public engagement will continue to occur throughout the process.

    As far as the Parks Planner, I imagine that his/her job will involve Raleigh’s other parks as well. Also with a project like this, it’s helpful to have someone within the city to synthesize the many proposals and details that the city will consider.

  3. She was hired to work specifically on Dix park itself. And synthesizing proposals and details is what the consultants will do, which she has experience in doing. Everything the firm hired will be charged with doing, she has experience in. So why do we need to spend more taxpayer dollars on it?

  4. cx,

    Agreed, I think it’s amazing that so many people wanted to be involved on that advisory committee. And many more will be joining via subcommittees. Glad to see so many people are excited about this project.

    Brad,

    You are correct that Ms. Pearce was hired as a senior planner specifically for the Dix project, and that her former employer, LandDesign, does work similar to what will be required to the consulting team.

    I’m sure Ms. Pearce will play a key/crucial role in this process, but from the note in the RFQ about the team needing to have expertise in “landscape architecture; urban design; land use planning; cultural resources planning; historic preservation; transportation planning; engineering; sustainability; community outreach and engagement; programming, operations and management; and market economics,” it sounds like this isn’t something any one person could do alone.

    As for the tax dollars, I’m sure the City views money spent on Dix as an investment that will bring in more revenue. If Dix is successful enough, maybe they’ll lower everyone’s property taxes? That’s how govt. budgeting generally works, right? 🙂

    James

  5. Wouldn’t it be great if the city had, on staff, landscape architects, urban designers, land use planners, etc? Turns out, they do! They have people employed now capable of all of those things.
    The thing is, master planning and consultant work done by firms like LandDesign is something that can be done in house, especially by a city as large as Raleigh. Especially when the person heading the project has the experience to do so.