Charlotte taxpayers spent $13 million last summer to buy the deserted Eastland Mall. The city council will vote Tuesday night on spending another $800,000 to tear the mall down. City leaders are hopeful the demolition will make way for new life on the blighted block.
City council members had those $13.2 million it spent buying the mall would be the last they'd have to spend on what's become something of an albatross on the east side. But earlier this year, the city gave tours of the dank and deserted place to a bunch of developers who were considering taking on the project and the need for demolition was pretty clear.
"The structure, as the way it is, is no use to us," said Bert Hesse who heads Studio Charlotte Development Group, which is one of two finalists the city has chosen to bring the Eastland Mall site back to life. "It can't be redeveloped for our needs which are sound stages, office parks, film schools – so it has to be torn down."
And that's what the city is about to do – at a cost of $870,000.
City Investment and Development Manager Peter Zeiler says demolition will be cheaper for the city than continuing to maintain and secure the vacant mall. Once it's leveled, Zeiler says the city hopes to have a private developer take over without needing any more public money.
But developers during that tour back in January agreed that more tax dollars probably will be necessary for the project.
"It's a massive redevelopment and it'd have to be a public/private project with the city and see if the city shares our vision," said Rick Lazes of the ARK Group, which is the other finalist chosen to submit a plan for the mall site.
The ARK Group has been less-specific about its plans for Eastland Mall, but Lazes says it doesn't involve movie studios. The group's preliminary application says the plan includes office, retail, hotel, residential and "one-of-a-kind entertainment." Previous ARK Group Developments include the NC Music Factory and Starlight Park movie theater and amphitheater near Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Detailed proposals from Lazes group and Studio Charlotte are due this Thursday. Zeiler says the city hopes to choose one by mid-summer. In the event neither meets with the city's approval, Zeiler says the city is still working on a "Plan B" for Eastland Mall.