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Charlotte city staff, council members clash over what should be built at former Eastland mall site

A parking lot behind a chain link fence
David Boraks
A portion of the undeveloped Eastland mall site remains empty.

City of Charlotte staff Monday night recommended an esports, concert venue and outdoor soccer complex for a nearly 30-acre site at the old Eastland Mall.

But a number of City Council members pushed back against that recommendation — in unusually strong terms.

While Crosland Southeast is developing most of the site with residences and offices, the city still has two competing finalists for a tract on the east side of the old mall site. A team of evaluators from the city, county and Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority gave QC East, the esports and amphitheater proposal, 70 out of 100 possible points.

The other proposal — an indoor amateur sports complex — got 59 points. One reason for the lower score is that two members of the private development team that would build that complex recently dropped out.

But more than 200 east side neighborhood leaders and residents recently signed a petition backing the indoor sports proposal.

And several City Council members, like LaWana Mayfield, appeared sympathetic to what they want.

"I do not feel comfortable with us moving forward anything until all information has been gathered from both parties," she said.

She said she was concerned about a city survey asking residents what they want, in which only 45% of the people who responded were from east Charlotte.

The community organization CharlotteEAST has launched a petition in support of a plan to build an indoor amateur sports complex at Eastland Mall.

"Slow down, slow down. So why the hell are we trying to rush tonight?" she asked, drawing applause.

City staff said they weren’t asking for council to vote on their recommendation at Monday's meeting — but that they were going to bring the esports proposal to the community. That angered council member James Mitchell, who said city staff members are undercutting the elected officials.

"I hope from this day forward we never have this language again. This is insulting to the people around this table," he said.

Other council members like Malcolm Graham defended the staff’s recommendation and chided council members for being indecisive.

"You can’t keep changing the rules, council. You've got to draw a line in the sand and be willing to make a decision in the appropriate time," he said.

Other council members also backed city staff and how they have handled Eastland. One was Tariq Bokhari. He is a minority investor in the esports venture that staff recommended.

Both proposals will now go back to the City Council’s economic development committee for further review.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.