It’s been eight years since Eastland Mall closed and five years since the empty building was torn down, leaving a gaping hole in Charlotte’s east side.
On Monday, the path ahead for the site on Central Avenue might become more clear. The city’s economic development staff will recommend a developer for the 69-acre asphalt expanse, which officials hope will become a thriving, mixed-use neighborhood with residences, offices, shops and restaurants.
City Council’s economic development committee will decide on the recommendation, and the full City Council is expected to vote in October.
Here’s a brief summary of the four plans presented this spring:
▪ Eastland Community Development Inc., along with the Fallon Co., Odell Architects and others: A mixed-use project that would feature an FC Barcelona Soccer Academy facility, 1,000 “millennial style” residences, a community center, a “millennial brand” hotel, 500,000 square feet of office space and a multicultural market called “Taste of Eastland.”
▪ Greater Charlotte Multiplex 4 Families: This plan would only develop 10 to 15 acres of the site, with a plan that includes a film studio, gathering places for teens, adults and senior citizens, childcare, birthday and event spaces, a restaurant with rooftop views and an amphitheater.
▪ Crosland Southeast and Jim Gross Co.: The development would focus on for-sale housing targeting millennial buyers, along with shops and restaurants.
▪ Legacy Family Group: The development would be centered on a 325,000 square-foot civic center with a new YMCA and an arts theater. The plan would also include almost 800 residences, ranging from age-restricted apartments to single-family houses to loft apartments, along with shops, restaurants and offices.
Whichever development plan the city recommends, it will likely be years before any more construction comes to the site.
Big question marks remain, such as what exactly the new developments will look like and how much in public subsidies the developers will ask the city to to provide.
And large public-private redevelopments typically take years to come into being. Mecklenburg County selected a master developer for Brooklyn Village, the plan to transform a big chunk of Second Ward in uptown into a mixed-use neighborhood, in 2016. The county finished negotiating a master development agreement this year, and the first phase of the development likely won’t be complete until the mid-2020s.
Eastland’s redevelopment will also have to overcome the stigma of past failures.
Since the mall’s anchor tenants like Belk and Sears started closing in 2007, multiple attempts to save the mall or revive the site have fallen apart. The city bought Eastland Mall in 2012 for $13.2 million, and tore the mall down at an additional cost of about $1 million, but has struggled to interest developers in the large chunk of land.
Former plans for Eastland include an ill-fated attempt to bring a movie studio to the site, called Studio Charlotte. Developer Bert Hesse pitched a $150 million project that would have included shops, restaurants and residences. After more than a year of negotiations with the city, those plans fell through in 2014.
A Houston-based company, Boxer Properties, also planned to convert the site to a Hispanic-themed shopping mall, and the developers of the N.C. Music Factory proposed an outdoor entertainment complex, focused on a 300-foot-long outdoor ski slope. Neither plan came to fruition.
Only one development has come to pass so far. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools built a K-8 magnet on about 11 acres purchased from the city, which opens this year.