From Bert Hesse, CEO of Studio Charlotte, in response to “City Council stars in Studio Charlotte flop” (Peter St. Onge, March 8) and “City weighs breaking up Eastland” (March 10):
In response to recent negative articles, specifically the column on March 8, I am compelled to address the issues raised about the Eastland Mall site. Being misinformed, politically polarizing and deliberately divisive is not productive for an honest discussion supported by professional journalism on this issue.
There is no question that the City of Charlotte is facing a crisis at Eastland.
The area is economically depressed with no end in sight and deserves better! Studio Charlotte has provided the only viable and beneficial project for this property and its community. The purchase of the land by the City and the leveling of the old mall was a good beginning, but that is all it was.
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The city, which owns the site, must make the property viable for use or sale, and this includes expenses. Ensuring the property is clean of toxic contaminants and ready for entitlement is a serious responsibility. No future investor/developer will commit to the site with such a significant unknown cost hanging in doubt.
Studio Charlotte, along with its partners, presented a clearly defined roadmap of how it would develop and finance the property in its RFP presentation: A 45-page public document detailing the development and the projected costs. Studio Charlotte asked the City for the minimum requirement of adequate infrastructure and a clean toxic report.
With the endless stream of negative articles, it is no wonder that the City’s leaders cannot find the political will to commit to the necessary cost of supporting Eastland and its economic future.
Studio Charlotte is an outstanding opportunity that will be built at Eastland, or some other community or state that is more supportive. The Eastland site will most likely remain abandoned for years, if the media constantly find fault with the reality of the economics of development there.
Studio Charlotte will create thousands of jobs and revitalize the community, but it cannot do so on a property that could cost far more than other properties in better locations, that are more economically supportive of development.
Studio Charlotte must be assured that the film and TV incentive program by North Carolina will be retained. Its current investors, major lenders, new investors and government entities will not publicly commit until the State has spoken on these incentives being continued. For this reason, the City should grant an extension in the negotiations with Studio Charlotte immediately.
The City of Charlotte showed great courage in purchasing the Eastland site and demolishing the abandoned mall. Now the City must take the next step by completing what it started, by financially committing to certifying that the property is clear of toxic substances and providing for adequate infrastructure. This is the minimum requirement for any successful development at the Eastland site.
It would also be refreshing if the Observer would rethink its overly negative political agenda and consider supporting the betterment of Charlotte’s neglected Eastside.