Eastland owners walking away

After three years of trying to sell Eastland Mall, the shopping center's owner said Wednesday it is walking away from the struggling property.

Columbus, Ohio-based Glimcher Realty Trust said in a statement it will no longer subsidize the money-losing mall, a longtime community anchor at Central and Albemarle roads in east Charlotte.

The company also said it will ask a court to appoint a third party to run the mall and eventually sell it.

The move adds a new wrinkle to the city's effort to revitalize the property, which officials and residents say is important to the health of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Glimcher's strategy was disclosed late Wednesday in a news release detailing its second-quarter earnings. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

It appears Glimcher wants to dispose of the mall in a managed fashion, said Charlotte real estate attorney Garth Dunklin. The approach can help minimize losses and avoid bankruptcy or outright foreclosure, Dunklin said.

Said Chris Oates, a Charlotte real estate lawyer: “They're walking away from (a) the payment of the loan, and (b) the ownership.”

Eastland Mall, about five miles from uptown Charlotte, is one of the city's highest priorities for economic renewal. Neighbors are watching closely, too: Eastland has long been a symbol of east Charlotte, from its days as a bustling regional shopping center to its more recent decline, said Darrell Bonapart, a community leader who lives behind the mall.

“It's just so important that we see – and everyone coming into Charlotte sees – prosperity,” he said.

Glimcher put Eastland up for sale in August 2005 but never found a taker. In the meantime, the mall's reputation and tenant roster suffered additional blows, including several well-publicized incidents of violence and the departure of numerous stores, original anchor Belk among them.

Eastland remains open, however, and it is unclear what the move means for the city, which has reserved the option to buy two of five parcels at the 70-acre property. City leaders hope a private developer will knock down the mall and build a mix of homes and stores.

Charlotte Economic Development Director Tom Flynn said Wednesday city lawyers are still working to understand the implications of Glimcher's latest move. He said the city believes Glimcher is losing between $50,000 and $100,000 a month because rents paid by stores at the mall are not covering the mortgage payments and operating costs.

The company is facing a September deadline to pay the balance of its mortgage on the property: $42 million. That's more than the mall is worth, experts have said.