The long-vacant Eastland Mall could soon belong to Charlotte taxpayers. The city council will vote tonight on buying the 80-acre development for $13 million. Doing something about Eastland Mall has been Councilman John Autry's top priority since he was elected to represent east Charlotte last year, "because it sits right in the middle of the district." "It's such an obvious symbol of demise, a touchstone of defeatedness," says Autry. Eastland Mall began a rapid decline starting in 2007 when Belk, then Dillards, then Sears shut down. Anticipating the need to step in, the city spent $400,000 on options to buy some of the empty stores. But when the opportunity came in 2009, the price tag for the 80-acre mall property was $22.2 million and the city took a pass - losing out on its $400,000 in the process. Now, Councilman John Autry says it's time to try again. The price tag is a much more attractive $13 million, thanks to the work a private real estate broker has done getting all seven mall property owners on board for a sale. If the city doesn't act now, Autry worries companies will come in and buy the pieces separately, "then you end up with a hodgepodge of stuff that doesn't make any sense and could potentially end up being something we'd have to deal with later on." City staffers suggest buying the mall with $13 million already earmarked for neighborhood improvements in the Eastland area. Autry says there are several film-related companies interested in turning the empty mall into sound stages for movie sets. A hive of film production could bring desperately-needed commerce to a blighted area, says Autry. The city has until August 31 to close the purchase deal.