Charlotte hopes to sell 12 acres of the former Eastland Mall site to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools next month, which would be the first step in redeveloping the empty property.
The city’s plan is for CMS to build a K-8 school on the northeast corner of the 80-acre property, which the city bought in 2012 for $13 million. After that, the next step would be to partner with Mecklenburg County to build a 22-acre park, whose focus would be a lake acting as a stormwater retention pond.
After that, Charlotte hopes to sell the remaining 46 acres to private developers. The vision is to have a network of streets inside the site, with houses, apartments, retail and office space.
Building the school and the park may be the easy part. The city said it has explored selling the entire site, but no developer has expressed interest.
“To date, no simple land sale has been presented (to the city),” said Pat Mumford, who heads the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services department.
A decade ago, when the mall was failing, the city envisioned a massive-mixed use development for the entire site. Then a Texas-based developer bought part of the mall in 2010 and announced plans to build a Hispanic-themed shopping center.
When those ideas didn’t succeed, the city switched plans and considered building a movie studio on the site. That idea failed as well.
There is still some resistance to building a school at Eastland.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Committee voted last week to recommend the city not sell Eastland land for the new school.
One reason was that committee members were concerned the school wouldn’t be a catalyst for additional development.
But after so many failed projects, most council members support the modest school plan.
Council member John Autry, who represents east Charlotte, said he would do whatever it takes to “get the first shovel turning.”
The city’s plans call for the streetcar line to end at Eastland. The streetcar would make a loop through the development, allowing it to turn around and return to uptown. Mayor Dan Clodfelter said the city needs details about where the line would be and when it would be built. He said that would be one of the key drivers of the project.
The next phase of the streetcar line could be built by 2019. But that would only reach Sunnyside Avenue in Elizabeth – about five miles from the mall. Reaching the Eastland Mall site would take a decade and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Council member Ed Driggs pressed Mumford on whether the city’s vision for Eastland will require further public subsidies.
Mumford said the city will sell the land to CMS at fair-market value, though there could be a discount of the land due to what he called “site conditions.” Mecklenburg Commissioners would vote on the land sale.
He didn’t rule out subsidies to entice private developers to buy the rest of the site.
“We anticipate there would be some additional expenditure by city,” he said.
Mumford said Mecklenburg County wants to begin planning for the park in its upcoming budget.