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City, Hesse part ways over Eastland

EASTLAND
TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
Workers continue to demolish Eastland Mall in east Charlotte Thursday, February 20, 2014.

The city of Charlotte cut ties Thursday with Bert Hesse, who wanted to build movie studios and new retail and office space on the 80 acres that was once home to Eastland Mall.

The City Council’s economic development committee voted unanimously Thursday not to give Hesse’s Studio Charlotte Development a five-month extension to reach a deal with the city.

The city’s economic development department said Hesse had not provided detailed information on how much his project would cost and who would finance it.

“We have received some information,” said Brad Richardson, the city’s economic development director. “It’s not to the level that we feel comfortable with tying up the 80-acre site.”

Hesse said he needed more time to see if the General Assembly in Raleigh would continue a tax credit for the film and TV industry that he said is vital for his project to work. He also said he had given the city enough information and that his partners advised him not to disclose more.

The city’s new plan for Eastland is to set aside land at the back of the site for studios. Richardson said the city believes that the entire 80-acre site is too large for one developer and that it will seek developers who can build on the most desirable land, along Central Avenue.

Richardson said the city could still work with Hesse’s group.

After the meeting, Hesse said he would no longer spend any time or money on Eastland, so long as the fate of the film tax credits are unknown.

He said he will work to build studios in the Charlotte area, possibly in South Carolina.

The city was prepared to give Hesse the 80 acres of Eastland for $1 a year. Hesse was asked whether he would be able to find another deal that would be as attractive in terms of getting free land.

He said he believes a large landowner would be willing to give him land for free or at a small cost because of the value his project would bring to the area.

Some council members are concerned the city might be starting over as it looks to break the Eastland site into smaller pieces.

City staff said breaking Eastland into smaller pieces wouldn’t be a large setback.

“I don’t think it’s uncommon during any commercial development to … change directions,” said Republican council member Kenny Smith.

Hesse has said he is worried the city has essentially taken his idea for movie studios at Eastland. He said he would be wary of trying to develop the movie studios if someone else was allowed to build the retail and office space.

“Wait a minute. You are taking my idea, again,” Hesse said.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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