Development

Should Charlotte erase the ‘Eastland’ name? That’s what City Council seems to think

The final “Rising Sun” signs at Eastland Mall being removed and prepared for transport to a storage facility in Concord as it awaits future installation as public art.
The final “Rising Sun” signs at Eastland Mall being removed and prepared for transport to a storage facility in Concord as it awaits future installation as public art. Courtesy of Grant Baldwin Photog

Charlotte is a city that’s often criticized for not doing right by its past: We tear down old buildings, blur our neighborhood lines willy-nilly and love coming up with trendy new monikers like NoDa, LoSo and MoRA.

Now, another part of the city’s history could be on the chopping block. As part of a plan to revitalize the area around the former Eastland Mall site, Charlotte City Council suggested Thursday that the city should change the area’s name to help change perceptions.

“Every time you say Eastland to the citizens, some of us, it brings heartburn,” said council member James Mitchell, chairman of the city’s economic development committee. “What is the new name?”

How to “rebrand” the area is one of the issues a new consultant team Charlotte is planning to hire for up to $575,000 will study. Jacobs Engineering will be charged with coming up with a new master plan for the site, and plans to sell and redevelop the land.

While the name “Eastland” has become associated with the failed mall and a string of unsuccessful redevelopment efforts, the mall’s name also carries a lot of significance for longtime Charlotteans. When it opened in 1975, it was the biggest mall in the region, and quickly became the premier shopping destination – and a major hangout spot.

With an ice skating rink, movie theater and four anchor department stores, the mall was hugely popular. Talk to anyone who grew up here in that era, and you’re likely to hear a few fond stories about family shopping trips, afternoons at the food court and the glamor of indoor ice skating inside the mall.

After the mall closed in 2010, the city bought the 80-acre Eastland site in 2012 for $13.2 million. Eastland had limped along for years. Belk closed in 2007, Dillard’s shuttered its store in 2008 and Sears shut down in 2009. Since the city demolished the mall in 2013, the Eastland site has sat empty.

So, what do you think? Does Eastland need a new name? Or should City Council leave the area’s history alone and find a way to build on it?

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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