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Politics

Council Likely Won't Approve Eastland Mall Project Until 2019

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Charlotte City Council Economic Development Committee
Drawing shows one proposal for what a redeveloped Eastland Mall might look like, with housing, shops and entertainment.

The Charlotte City Council likely won't approve an agreement to redevelop the vacant Eastland Mall site until at least next February. That's in a timetable approved Thursday by the council's economic development subcommittee.

City Council Economic Development Committee chair James "Smuggie" Mitchell listens to council member Dimple Ajmera during Thursday's meeting about Eastland Mall.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
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WFAE
City Council Economic Development Committee chair James "Smuggie" Mitchell listens to council member Dimple Ajmera during Thursday's meeting about Eastland Mall.

The committee also put off until at least July a vote on whether to recommend any of the four development proposals received in March. Those proposals incorporate shops, offices, entertainment and housing at various price points.

Committee member Matt Newton represents District 5, which includes the Eastland site. He said afterward: "We are at a point now where we do have four solid defined proposals and a roadmap for choosing a master developer."

Longtime neighbors of the mall support the project, but for some, the new timeline doesn't move fast enough.  

"That area has been empty for so long, and an eyesore. I remember what it was, and I want it to come back better. We deserve better and our children deserve better," Diana McLemore said after the meeting.

Eastland was the largest mall in the state when it opened in 1975 off Central Avenue, about five miles east of uptown. But by the 2000s, it faced lots of competition and sales were declining. Eastland Mall closed in 2010. The city bought the 80-acre site in 2012, for $13.2 million, and demolished the mall in 2013.

Since then, city officials have been trying to figure out a way to redevelop it. Other proposals have come and gone, without any results — including a deal for a movie studio that collapsed in 2014.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools bought 11 of the 80 acres in 2016 and is developing a K-8 school there. That leaves 69 acres to be redeveloped. 

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Credit Davie Hinshaw/ Charlotte Observer
The site of the former Eastland Mall.

The four proposals didn't even come up at Thursday's meeting. Instead, the session focused on whether the city used the right process to solicit developers. Council member and committee Vice Chair Ed Driggs complained that the city's selection process was too informal and lacked clear criteria. He said the process may have kept some developers from submitting proposals. He argued the city should have issued a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) and urged the committee to keep the door open to other potential developers. 

In the end, the committee voted 4-1 against allowing any new proposals.

The committee also discussed criteria for making a choice, including developers' experience, the projects' financial viability and how closely they follow the city's vision for development in east Charlotte.

Last year, the city hired a consultant to help solicit proposals. That was supposed to result in a formal RFP, but the economic development committee voted to halt the study after the first phase and to seek private developers to help pay for writing detailed criteria.  

In March, four developers were invited to present proposals to the economic development committee. All are mixed-use projects with themes ranging from the arts and sports, to millennial housing and family entertainment. Here's a list:

  • One proposal from Charlotte-based Crosland Southeast for what's described as a walkable complex of shops and offices, with lower-priced housing targeting millennials.
  • Eastland Community Development Group also wants to target millennials. That plan calls for housing, shopping, dining and entertainment. It also includes plans for a sports complex with indoor soccer.
  • Legacy Family Group proposes shops, restaurants and housing, including about 35 percent workforce housing. That plan also calls for an arts and cultural center, a skating rink, a movie theater, and a fitness center.
  • Greater Charlotte Multiplex 4 Families wants to develop only 10 to 15 of the 80 acres with family-oriented elements — an entertainment complex, a child development center, film studios, a movie theater and an amphitheater.

According to the timeline adopted Thursday, city staff members are supposed to recommend one of the development teams to the committee in June. The committee would vote on a recommendation in July, and the full council would authorize staff to negotiate a deal by September. A vote on a final development agreement and land sale could come in February 2019.
This article has been updated to correct Matt Newton's district number.