The Charlotte City Council voted unanimously Monday night to buy the hulking remains of Eastland Mall, spending $13.2 million with hopes of turning 81 acres into movie and television studios and revitalizing the east side.
As Eastlands slow decline accelerated last decade, the city began planning to remake the area at Central Avenue and North Sharon Amity Road. The first plan was for a mixed-use community of stores, offices and houses.
But the city now says it has received interest from multiple studios about the site, and economic development officials plan to seek requests from companies who want to redevelop the site.
Charlotte could sell the land to a developer, or it could keep the land and lease it to a private company.
Pat Mumford of the citys Neighborhood and Business Services division said he doesnt envision studios on the entire 81 acres. Instead, it could serve as a catalyst for other development, he said.
Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, lobbied council members to buy the land. He said the citys involvement could change perceptions that blight has to exist, that deterioration has to exist.
Republican Warren Cooksey, who said the Eastland decision was not an easy vote, said he supported the purchase because voters in 2008 approved $16 million in bonds for the Eastland area.
People voted for us to do something, Cooksey said.
Cooksey was joined by fellow Republican Andy Dulin, who also voted for the deal. After tentatively raising his hand at first, he was given a high-five by Democrat James Mitchell, who sat next to him on the dais.
Council members made the vote before dozens of residents attending the meeting, some of whom carried signs that read Enough Blight! Deal with Eastland and Hollywood or Bust.
Decisive city involvement is necessary now. Hundreds of millions have been spent on uptown and other parts of the city, said Andrea Smith, a member of the Coventry Woods neighborhood association. East Charlotte asked for little and has received less.
Other speakers some of whom are involved in the movie and TV industry lobbied for council members to approve the deal to grow the film industry. The Showtime TV show Homeland is filmed here, and the recent blockbuster movie The Hunger Games was filmed in North Carolina, including in Charlotte.
In fall 2009, when the malls closing was imminent, the city had struck a tentative deal to buy the entire mall for $22.24 million.
The city wanted to buy the mall because the site had seven owners, with many property owners having veto power over how the site could be used. The citys hope was that by consolidating the land under one owner, it would be easier for a private developer to invest.
But in November 2009, the City Council, led by then-member John Lassiter, suggested a much lower price of $7.7 million. That offer was rejected, and entire mall closed in the summer of 2010.
The current $13.2 million deal breaks down as follows:
• $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. 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. When the sale closes, Boxer will have sold its $2 million stake in the mall for more than $6 million.
• $2.5 million to Sears, Roebuck and Co. for its empty anchor store.
$1.2 million each to Belk and Eastland Fields (owner of the old J.C. Penney/Burlington Coat Factory store).
• $1.14 million to Higbee LANCOMS, which owns the empty Dillards building.
• $925,000 each to EJB Charlotte, which owns the empty Firestone building, and H/V Central Avenue, which owns the empty Hollywood Video store.
The average price per acre is $163,501. Under the old 2009 proposed purchase price of $22.24 million, the city would have spent $266,000 an acre.
The firm FMW Real Estate negotiated with the seven owners and drew up the contracts.