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City takes option on a 2nd part of Eastland

The city has reserved the right to buy a second property at Eastland Mall, pushing forward an effort to tear down the aging complex and turn it into a mixture of homes and businesses.

Proponents say redesign of the 70-acre site – which has a reputation for loitering, crime and lackluster retail – could transform east Charlotte, where residents have long complained that the city neglects their needs.

“This is the future of the eastside,” said council member Nancy Carter.

But the ambitious Eastland Mall project, which eventually would require about $25 million in public money for roads, sidewalks and other improvements, could be the most expensive of the five business districts the city has agreed to target for redevelopment.

The city's $75,000 option on the Dillard's store follows an identical agreement made with Belk in March. The two agreements give the city control over two of the site's five properties. The Belk closed in 2006; the Dillard's plans to close in August.

City officials discussed the Dillard's option in a closed meeting Monday night and talked to the Observer Tuesday about the deal.

The city could purchase the properties for $3.5 million each, but city leaders said they do not want to buy the mall. They hope the agreements give the city leverage in determining what happens to the mall, which is at the corner of Central Avenue and Albemarle Road. Ideally, officials say, a developer will agree to work with the city to build a town center.

“All of this is putting the city in a position to best control the destiny of the Eastland Mall site,” said council member John Lassiter.

City officials are also watching what will happen to a third property owner, Glimcher Realty Trust, which owns the central part of the mall. Glimcher has a crucial deadline in September: It must pay its lender $42 million, more than the mall is worth, or face higher mortgage payments.

If Glimcher walks away from the loan, as analysts have suggested could happen, the lender would probably sell the land at a discount, reasoned Lassiter, who chairs the council's economic development committee. He said the city would like to have some say in what the lender does.

Built in 1975 as a regional shopping center, Eastland has since lost about a quarter of its tenants. Dillard's became an outlet store about two years ago. Once it closes, the only operating anchor store will be Sears. A Burlington Coat Factory operates in the J.C. Penney space.

But city leaders point out that the site is just five miles from downtown. Eastside residents are hungry for downtown's growth and affluence to spill down Central Avenue.

They have active neighborhood associations and are interested in any redevelopment efforts that target their communities: More than 300 came to a forum Tuesday about the revitalization of the nearby Independence Boulevard corridor.

Eastland is a huge piece of land that is at the end of a planned streetcar route.

“I can't think of any 70-acre parcels that have the type of redevelopment potential that Eastland Mall does,” said council member Anthony Foxx.

The other four business corridors the city has targeted for redevelopment are Rozzelles Ferry Road, Beatties Ford Road, Bryant Park and North Tryon Street.

Jen Aronoff and Clay Barbour contributed.

The city has reserved the right to buy a second property at Eastland Mall, pushing forward an effort to tear down the aging complex and turn it into a mixture of homes and businesses.

Proponents say redesign of the 70-acre site – which has a reputation for loitering, crime and lackluster retail – could transform east Charlotte, where residents have long complained that the city neglects their needs.

“This is the future of the eastside,” said council member Nancy Carter.

But the ambitious Eastland Mall project, which eventually would require about $25 million in public money for roads, sidewalks and other improvements, could be the most expensive of the five business districts the city has agreed to target for redevelopment.

The city's $75,000 option on the Dillard's store follows an identical agreement made with Belk in March. The two agreements give the city control over two of the site's five properties. The Belk closed in 2006; the Dillard's plans to close in August.

City officials discussed the Dillard's option in a closed meeting Monday night and talked to the Observer Tuesday about the deal.

The city could purchase the properties for $3.5 million each, but city leaders said they do not want to buy the mall. They hope the agreements give the city leverage in determining what happens to the mall, which is at the corner of Central Avenue and Albemarle Road. Ideally, officials say, a developer will agree to work with the city to build a town center.

“All of this is putting the city in a position to best control the destiny of the Eastland Mall site,” said council member John Lassiter.

City officials are also watching what will happen to a third property owner, Glimcher Realty Trust, which owns the central part of the mall. Glimcher has a crucial deadline in September: It must pay its lender $42 million, more than the mall is worth, or face higher mortgage payments.

If Glimcher walks away from the loan, as analysts have suggested could happen, the lender would probably sell the land at a discount, reasoned Lassiter, who chairs the council's economic development committee. He said the city would like to have some say in what the lender does.

Built in 1975 as a regional shopping center, Eastland has since lost about a quarter of its tenants. Dillard's became an outlet store about two years ago. Once it closes, the only operating anchor store will be Sears. A Burlington Coat Factory operates in the J.C. Penney space.

But city leaders point out that the site is just five miles from downtown. Eastside residents are hungry for downtown's growth and affluence to spill down Central Avenue.

They have active neighborhood associations and are interested in any redevelopment efforts that target their communities: More than 300 came to a forum Tuesday about the revitalization of the nearby Independence Boulevard corridor.

Eastland is a huge piece of land that is at the end of a planned streetcar route.

“I can't think of any 70-acre parcels that have the type of redevelopment potential that Eastland Mall does,” said council member Anthony Foxx.

The other four business corridors the city has targeted for redevelopment are Rozzelles Ferry Road, Beatties Ford Road, Bryant Park and North Tryon Street.

Jen Aronoff and Clay Barbour contributed.

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