The vacant Eastland Mall site which may be bought by the city of Charlotte has drawn interest from multiple parties for new television and movie studios, the city said Wednesday.
The City Council voted Monday night in closed session to consider next week buying the empty mall for $13.2.million.
If it buys Eastland, the city's plan is to partner with a private developer to transform the area, possibly into a film studio and sound stages. The city's purchase would eliminate the multiple owners currently on the 90-acre site, allowing the city to present a single, large parcel of land for use.
City Council member John Autry envisions a partnership in which the city might provide the land while a developer covers construction costs.
Council members are scheduled to vote on the sale Monday.
We think that this is the last opportunity to have control of the site, said Democrat Autry, who represents the area. If this is to fall through, we'll see the mall broken up. There won't be any planning to it.
Autry said Charlotte has recently drawn interest from Hollywood, noting that the Showtime television series Homeland is filmed locally, and the blockbuster movie Hunger Games also was filmed in and around Charlotte. The film industry is one of our targeted areas for growth, he said.
Autry said it's possible a studio could use some of the existing mall structure, but he also said the city might raze the entire mall. The city has said in the past that demolishing the mall could cost up to $10 million.
The city released detailed information Wednesday about the possible purchase.
nThe city would spend $5.26 million to buy the interior section of the mall from Houston-based Boxer Properties, which bought that section of the mall for $2 million in 2010. Boxer president Andrew Segal said this week he had planned to reopen the mall, but the opportunity to sell was better.
Last year, Boxer sold a 1.4-acre piece of the mall to the Charlotte Area Transit System for $771,000. CATS had a small community bus station on the site and had been leasing the land.
If the deal goes through, Boxer will have sold its $2 million stake in the mall for more than $6 million.
nSears, Roebuck and Co. would be paid $2.5 million for its empty anchor store.
nBelk and Eastland Fields, the owner of the old J.C. Penney/Burlington Coat Factory store, would each be paid $1.2 million.
nHigbee LANCOMS, which owns the empty Dillard's building, would receive $1.14 million.
nTwo outparcels also would be purchased. EJB Charlotte, which owns the empty Firestone building, and H/V Central Avenue, which owns the empty Hollywood Video store, would each receive $925,000.
Eastland, which opened in 1975, was once the commercial hub of east Charlotte. But the mall suffered a slow exodus of customers and tenants last decade, culminating with the entire mall closing in the summer of 2010. With the mall fading, the city became interested in revitalizing the area, by possibly remaking the site into a mixed-use community of shops, offices and homes.
In 2008, the city took out options worth $400,000 on the Belk and Dillard's anchors in order to get a seat at the table as the mall's future was discussed.
A year later, City Council came close to buying the entire mall for $22.24 million, but pulled back. John Lassiter, then a Republican council member, believed the city was willing to pay too much and persuaded other council members to offer a third of the price. That offer was rejected. The city lost its options on the two department stores. The mall closed about seven months later.
This year, the commercial real estate firm FMW secured contracts with the mall's seven owners, and offered to assign them to the city.
The city must post a nonrefundable deposit of $750,000 by July 31. The rest of the money is due by Aug. 31.
The money would come from nearly $16 million in bonds approved by voters in 2008 that are designated for Eastland.
The city said Wednesday it would seek proposals from companies interested in building television and movie studios on the site.