Two developers with competing visions for remaking Eastland Mall gave the Charlotte City Council bold presentations Thursday, but neither group said how much public money they would need.
Bert Hesse’s Studio Charlotte group’s plan to redevelop the 80 acres at Eastland is anchored by a plan to build more than 150,000 square feet of sound stages and studios. After that is built, Hesse believes he can develop the rest of the site with retail, offices, a hotel and a film school.
Hesse said it would be “the largest film studio” on the east coast.
ARK Ventures, a group led by Rick and Noah Lazes, who developed the N.C. Music Factory uptown, have a different vision for the site.
The Lazes would build an outdoor artificial ski slope, a wave pool, ice rink, skateboard park and gymnasium to create what Rick Lazes said would “put the site on the map.”
After the entertainment/activity center is built, Rick Lazes said he would look to build housing, offices and a technical trade school. He also said he would build a 60,000 square-foot film studio on the site – a change for the group.
ARK Ventures had previously said it didn’t think the Charlotte area could support another film studio. The Lazes developed the city’s largest movie studio, ReelWorks, at the Music Factory.
Rick Lazes said his group would probably need property tax rebates from the city to make the project work. Hesse said a below-market lease of the Eastland land would help his project, and his partners suggested that additional financial help might be necessary.
Both groups made presentations before the City Council’s economic development committee Thursday. City staff plan to ask the groups more detailed questions – particularly about their financing – before the committee considers Eastland again Aug. 15.
Eastland, built in 1975, was once the commercial hub of east Charlotte. But the mall began losing customers and stores to other malls, and it began a slow decline in the 1990s. It closed in 2010.
Last year the city bought the mall and the surrounding 80 acres for $13.2 million. The city plans to spend nearly $900,000 demolishing the mall.
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