'); } -->
A modest brick house looks a bit out of place in the middle of a North Raleigh park, but the vacant homeplace will soon be the main attraction.
The city’s parks department will start construction this fall on phase two of the Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park. The $2.5 million project calls for transforming Wilkerson’s former home into an environmental education center. The public will get a chance to weigh in on the blueprints at a meeting Thursday.
When it opens in summer 2014, the building will have a classroom, multipurpose room, exhibit space and outdoor classroom. “This center gives us the ability to bring in school groups,” said Stephen Bentley, Raleigh capital improvement program manager.
If you go
What: Design hearing for Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Millbrook Exchange Park, 1905 Spring Forest Road
For more information: raleighnc.gov, search “Wilkerson Nature Preserve”
Wilkerson – a longtime Raleigh doctor who was the first female resident at Rex Hospital – left the 157-acre tract off Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads to the city after her death in 2005. Her will requires the property to be used as a nature preserve.
“It’s our first nature preserve,” Bentley said. “It was a pretty unique project.”
The first half of the park opened in 2011 with several miles of hiking trails and a smaller building repurposed as an office. Staff members already offer programs on topics such as astronomy, birding, ponds and streams for kids and adults. The new educational center will provide more indoor space for those events.
The city is using green building techniques for the entire park, and the 4,750-square-foot Wilkerson house will seek LEED certification status, an accolade for environmentally friendly buildings. The existing park office has solar panels, and there’s an electric car charging station in the parking lot.
The hiking trails at the nature preserve connect to the unpaved South Shore Trail on Falls Lake, which in turn ties into Raleigh’s greenway system.
Park planners will take feedback on the design from Thursday’s meeting to the city’s greenways advisory board for approval.