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Eastland Mall demolition could begin as soon as August

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  • About the Eastland site

    Eastland was purchased by the city last August for $13.2 million.

    The property includes 80 acres, along with two outlying buildings that once housed a Firestone tire store and a Hollywood video location. The city bought the site in part to make it more attractive for developers. The mall site previously had multiple owners, and the city was worried that would make it more difficult for a private company to consolidate and purchase the land.

    The city spent $344,761 in maintenance and securing the mall from August to April. The city has turned off the mall’s heating and cooling systems, but alarms and interior lighting are being maintained.

    The money to purchase, maintain and demolish the mall came from nearly $16 million in bonds for Eastland area infrastructure approved by voters in 2008.



Demolition of Eastland Mall could begin as soon as August and, if the project takes as long as similar ones, could be completed in six to nine months.

A significant amount of materials will likely be preserved or recycled, including the mall’s four iconic entrance signs.

The City Council approved a plan Tuesday to tear down the closed mall for $871,520. The city has said it hopes to redevelop the site, possibly into movie studios. The council voted 10-1 to approve the demolition of the mall, which closed in 2010. Council member Andy Dulin voted no.

Environmental Holdings Group was the city’s low bidder for the project, but a contract has not been finalized, said EHG Senior Vice President Brian Sanders.

Salvaging icons

Before Eastland’s demolition begins, community members are focused on preserving an important part of the mall’s character.

Jamie Banks of the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services said the city will likely not complete the demolition contract until the community has squared away its plans for saving the entrance signs.

Eastland Area Strategies Team is an east Charlotte community group spearheading plans to preserve the mall’s four entrance signs. EAST board member Martique Lorray, who lives in the Windsor Park neighborhood near the mall, said the signs are icons representing a site that once inspired a sense of pride in the community.

The group has been in contact with the Arts & Science Council to look into turning the signs into public art in east Charlotte, Lorray said.

“It would just create a sense of place and pull some of the dynamic stories of Charlotte’s past and make it a dynamic story for its future,” Lorray said.

What it takes to tear down a mall

EHG was cautious not to comment specifically about the Eastland Mall demolition since no contract has been signed.

Whole-mall demolitions are infrequent, Sanders said. More often, he said, it’s pieces of a mall or major tenant stores that are being removed or repurposed.

Demolition projects similar to Eastland Mall have taken, on average, six to nine months to complete, Sanders said. In the demolition of Raleigh’s North Hills Mall in the early 2000s, Sanders said, EHG had no problems with neighborhood disturbances during the demolition, despite the suburban setting.

Early steps in a typical demolition include inspecting the building and collecting valuable assets and salvageable materials, such as escalators and electrical wires, which could be resold.

The process would then focus on the environmental component of demolition, when hazardous materials like asbestos or refrigerants are removed.

“Light demolition” to gut the building would follow, Sanders said, before structural demolition using mainly track excavators and shears would begin.

‘Something that was great’

When it opened in 1975, the mall “embodied the whole spirit of the city,” said Stewart Gray, the preservation director for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark Commission.

With a skating rink and the first food court in the state, the mall’s design was innovative, Gray said, to have entertainment, food and shopping in one destination.

Eastland struggled for about a decade before it closed in 2010, as it lost customers to other malls, including Concord Mills and Northlake. The exodus of anchor stores like Belk, J.C. Penney and Sears hurt the mall.

Gray said the competition of other area malls coupled with a shift in neighborhood demographics likely contributed to the mall’s decline.

Lorray said the mall is an example of “a beautiful storyline of something that was great.”

She and her neighbors recall the mall as a community gathering place where they made memories watching Fourth of July fireworks and ice skating.

“That’s what makes communities and cities deep. It tells a story that could not occur anywhere else,” Lorray said.

Ellis: 704-358-5298
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