The City of Charlotte has identified three finalists to breathe life into the now-vacant Eastland Mall and surrounding area.
The Eastland Mall will not become a doll factory or a multi-generational healthy living community. Those are two of four proposals the city rejected in the first stage of selecting a suitor to remake the 80-acre site on Central Avenue in east Charlotte. But it's still not entirely clear what all three finalists to develop the property have in mind.
"We weren't looking for specific proposals," says City Development and Investment Manager Peter Zeiler. "What we were looking for was the capacity and the ability to pull off a project at the site."
Zeiler says the three finalists will be expected to submit detailed plans, drawings and timelines to the city by May 30.
One is ARK Ventures, which developed the NC Music Factory. ARK envisions office, residential, retail, a hotel and "unique, one of a kind entertainment" at Eastland Mall.
The other finalists: Film Studio Group and Studio Charlotte Development, both hope to make film production the core of Eastland Mall redevelopment. But Film Studio Group says that won't be possible without "significant public support." Zeiler says the city would prefer not to invest any more than the $13 million it spent buying Eastland Mall.
"What we want to understand is what 'significant support' means," says Zeiler. "It's up to them to decide whether they want to propose or not, knowing that there is the possibility that if their ask is very large, the city may not be able to meet that match."
Zeiler says Film Studio Group – which includes Atlanta developer Bob Silverman - has demonstrated an ability to redevelop a project the size of Eastland Mall.
Studio Charlotte Development, on the other hand, has not. But Zeiler says, "they made the cut because they have really demonstrated a great vision for the site – one that is a little more developed."
The group's leader - Bert Hesse - has held public meetings outlining that vision, which includes sound stages, a film school and an office park. Zeiler says the winning proposal will come with proof its visionaries can get the money to carry it through.
Eastland Mall was once the largest mall in North Carolina, but declined into vacancy by 2010.