Two of the four development groups that offered proposals for redeveloping the old Eastland Mall site have joined forces, and won the endorsement of city staff to pursue the project.
Crosland Southeast and Eastland Community Development Group both had proposed a mix of uses for the mall site, off Central Avenue about five miles east of uptown. After discussions in recent months, they decided to combine their efforts.
City staff said the Crosland/Eastland group has direct experience with similar projects, including with public-private partnerships. Also important was the group's track record of obtaining financing for big projects.
The project is expected to include shops, offices, dining and entertainment, as well as housing aimed at millennials. Eastland Community Development's original proposal also included a sports complex with indoor soccer.
Council member Matt Newton, whose District 5 includes the mall site, said the Eastland Community Development Group proposal, was favored by neighbors. The group is co-led by Odell Architects.
"I think having Crosland now partner with Odell further strengthens the development bid," Newton said.
LOTS OF WORK TO DO
There's still a long way to go before anything happens, and the city still hasn't talked with the developers about money.
During the meeting, Republican council member Tariq Bokhari questioned why the city didn’t ask detailed questions about how much Crosland might request of the city. He said he’s worried the city would spend months negotiating with one firm, only to have the deal fall apart if they are far apart on how much public money is needed for the project.
Assistant City Manage Tracy Dodson said she plans to immediately ask “hard questions” about how much money Crosland might need. She said the city has a number of options, including refunding the developer a portion of the new property taxes generated from the site. She said there is also money from the 2013 Capital Improvement Program set aside for Eastland.
Council member and Economic Development chair James "Smuggie" Mitchell said afterward the city could provide at least $35 million, including about $20 million for infrastructure around the site and another $15 million for the amateur sports "village" proposed.
"From a council council standpoint, I think there's potential revenue that we can bring to the project that would make it what I call a catalyst," Mitchell said.
That's an element of the project that neighbors have been concerned about. In addition to redeveloping the vacant site, they'd like to see it spur a revival of Charlotte's East Side.
The 80-acre site is off Central Avenue about five miles east of uptown Charlotte. Eastland Mall was North Carolina's largest mall when it opened in 1975. By the 2000s, sales were declining as competition increased. It closed in 2010, and the city bought in 2012, for $13.2 million.
It was demolished in 2013, and city officials have entertained a variety of proposals over the years, but none have panned out.
Neighbor Diana McLemore of the Silverwood Community Association said neighbors are excited.
"East Charlotte has a project," she said after the presentation, "and we're not going to blindfold ourselves more driving by that site. You know 20 years is a long time to wait. So anyway I'm really excited."
The Economic Development Committee will consider recommending the project at its Sept. 27 meeting. The council could authorize the city manager to negotiate a development agreement in October. But final approval likely will not come until next spring(2019).
As city staff reviewed the four proposals this spring and summer, some of the groups reconfigured themselves.
Crosland Southeast originally planned to partner with Charlotte Developer Jim Gross. But Crosland later approached Eastland Community Development about a partnership. Crosland replaced Fallon as the primary developer in that bid.
Gross, meanwhile, brought in MVP Properties as his development partner.
Another change in lead developer came at Legacy Family Group, which had proposed a multi-use project of homes, offices, medical and retail space and a hotel. Newmark Knight & Frank replaced Global Consortium Group.
The fourth developer, Greater Charlotte Multiplex for Families, may not be entirely out of the picture. That group's Donna Reed said she's been in discussions with Crosland about incorporating her proposal for a small development of 10 to 15 acres that would include a family entertainment complex, community event space, amphitheater, film studio and child development center.
Eastland Mall was North Carolina’s largest mall when it opened in 1975. By the 2000s, sales were declining as competition increased. It closed in 2010, and the city bought it in 2012 for $13.2 million.
It was demolished in 2013 and city officials have since entertained a variety of proposals for redeveloping the site, but none have panned out.
WFAE reporter Steve Harrison contributed to this story.