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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

A new chapter for the Eastland Mall site

Julie Rose
An undated interior photo of the Eastland Mall.

It’s been more than a decade since Eastland Mall closed. But now a new chapter for the east Charlotte site is underway. City officials held a groundbreaking on a planned mixed-use development project on Wednesday. The groundbreaking comes just weeks after Panthers and Charlotte FC owner David Tepper decided to cancel plans for a soccer academy at the site. Tepper had originally planned to put a soccer headquarters there but previously canceled those plans as well. That’s according to the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter. For more, WFAE's Marshall Terry talks to the Ledger’s Tony Mecia.

Marshall Terry: Alright Tony, we’ve heard a lot lately about what isn’t going to be in this Eastland redevelopment. So what is going to be in it?

Tony Mecia: The plan is for the city and county to work with developer Crosland Southeast on a mixed-use project that would have about 250 housing units, a mix of offices, some retail, parks, open space, that sort of thing. So they've developed this plan over years, meetings with the community and the city council meetings talking about it. That's the plan and it looks as though it's about to get underway.

Terry: How big of a deal is it that Tepper has pulled out of this project?

Mecia: Well, a lot of people on the eastside feel as though it's significant and that it's a real blow to the project not to have, you know, the Tepper organization as a part of it. I personally think it's not a huge deal because once he said that, look, it's not going to be the headquarters for Charlotte FC, it's going to be a youth soccer academy. You're really just talking about a few athletic fields, maybe a small office space. The idea that it was going to be some sort of huge economic catalyst for the eastside, I don't know that that is really accurate. So what they're talking about now is trying to find some other type of athletic organization that could go in there and use some of those use some fields, use some of the space that's there. So, you know, I don't know that it's a big deal. It might be more sort of psychological than anything else.

Terry: Switching gears now. The trading app Robinhood has announced it’s laying off nearly a quarter of its employees. It’s the second time this year the company has announced layoffs and the Charlotte Observer reports Robinhood is closing its Charlotte office, which it just opened last year. What is going on?

Mecia: Yeah, Robinhood hit a bunch of problems really in the last year or so. Nationally, I mean, about a year ago, it said it was coming here, opening up an office. But since then, it's had a number of financial stumbles. You know, it's no secret that the markets are down pretty big. That's put a damper on people wanting to use their app to, you know, to trade stocks. It made a move into cryptocurrency, which didn't really pan out. So really national financial difficulties, rounds of layoffs. And I think they just decided, well, we're not going to you know, we don't need this office in Charlotte.

Terry: Ok, let’s talk for a moment about Charlotte company StarMed Healthcare. It seemed like it was everywhere during the pandemic offering testing and vaccination spots. Now that demand for those things is in decline, the Ledger reports StarMed is shifting its focus. To what?

Mecia: Yeah, I talked last week to Michael Estramonte, the founder of StarMed, and he told me that they had ramped up a lot. I think, as we all know, during the pandemic, they went from about 100 employees to more than 2,000 at these testing sites, vaccination clinics. Now they've shrunk back down. They don't need all those folks anymore to administer vaccines and the like. So what they're doing now is they're moving toward starting a division of the company that is focused on disaster, rapid response. They're calling it North Rapid Response Company. And he envisions it deploying to sites where there are wildfires or floods or hurricanes because they have expertise, he says, in ramping up medical services very quickly. So that's what they're moving toward. They're also opening a few more community health clinics in the Charlotte area. They're not going away.

Terry: Well, let's go outside of Charlotte for just a moment. The new casino in Kings Mountain is under scrutiny after a report that some family members of politicians may have received improper gifts related to that casino's approval. What can you tell us about that?

Mecia: Marshall, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Catawba two Kings Casino, which opened last year in Kings Mountain, that as part of the process of it opening and winning federal approval to open, a number of family members of politicians received shares in a slot machine company that benefits from the casino. And so it reported that some ethics experts are wondering whether that's proper, that the brother of South Carolina, Democratic Representative James Clyburn, and the husband of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, whether it was proper for them to receive shares in that slot machine company that's connected to the casino. The politicians say that there was no improper influence that was exercised. But there are some ethics experts that are saying, well, it certainly looks a little questionable. And so there are some questions about the propriety of that relationship.

Terry: Finally, the Ledger reports that BLACKLION is closing its final store in Pineville. Tony, this store offering home décor has kind of been an institution in Charlotte, right?

Mecia: Yes, it's been around almost 27 years. The Pineville location is its flagship store, a little unique in the sense that it's not just a store that sells merchandise, but it has a bunch of vendors there who work under its umbrella that are selling jewelry, home furnishings and the like. BLACKLION used to have locations all over Charlotte, had one in Dilworth and one in Huntersville, but now it has sold the site of the building and it's going to be moving out, vacating, closing and it looks like a medical office building is going to be in its place. This is a location that's right across the street from Atrium Health, Pineville.

Support for BizWorthy comes from Sharonview Federal Credit Union, UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business and our members.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.