Development

What to do with a dead mall? Charlotte City Council set to vote on $575,000 Eastland plan

The site of the former Eastland Mall site, at Central Avenue and Albemarle Road.
The site of the former Eastland Mall site, at Central Avenue and Albemarle Road. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte City Council is planning to vote on a new plan Monday night that they hope will finally point the way to a solution to the vexing problem of what to do with the long-vacant former Eastland Mall site.

The plan calls for hiring Jacobs Engineering Group to lead a new effort to evaluate the property and come up with a master plan. Charlotte bought the 80-acre site in 2012 for $13.2 million, two years after the mall closed for good. The city demolished the empty mall in 2013.

Since Eastland closed, plans for the site have fallen away one after another: A movie studio, a Hispanic-themed shopping center, a 300-foot ski slope with artificial snow were all pitched. The new planning effort, if approved by City Council on Monday, will be the fourth attempt to come up with a workable vision since 2007.

Charlotte City Council’s economic development committee held a hearing on Eastland earlier this month. Most members were optimistic, though Ed Driggs said he was skeptical and wanted to know what the market interest is before spending money on another plan. They’re also considering changing the name of the site to get rid of negative associations with the word “Eastland.”

Jacobs Engineering would devise its plan in two phases, with the first costing $145,000 and starting in April. That would include a one-day workshop with the community, a developer forum with private sector companies potentially interested in the site and a preliminary design for an approach to encouraging small-scale development at Eastland.

The second phase would cost up to $430,000 – though officials have said it could be less – and would include a detailed market feasibility analysis, a master plan and solicitation of possible developers.

One plan has come together so far. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bought 11.4 acres at the northeast corner of the site, with plans for a new K-8 language school. But the city will give CMS back most of the $650,000 sale price in road and clean-up costs for the site.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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