Texas Developer Has High Hopes For Eastland Mall

Jun 25, 2010

Eastland Mall is not dead. The mall was scheduled to close for good next Wednesday, June 30th. We say was because a developer based in Houston called Boxer Property has reached a deal to buy the mall, minus the anchor stores. Of course, we've heard a lot of negatives about East Charlotte while past efforts to revive the mall have failed. But Boxer Property President Andrew Segal tells WFAE's Mark Rumsey that he sees a lot of positives. Here's a transcript of that conversation: Segal: We think that it's in the middle of a very vibrant neighborhood. It's a neighborhood that has changed a great deal over the years. It's an exciting place if you listen to what is going on around the mall. Rumsey: Can you say what some of those factors are specifically that intrigue you? Segal: Well, the community has become a diverse, a kind of multicultural, multiethnic community and the mall really was just trying to be another mall. It was very hard when you would walk into this mall to say that it was in Charlotte and not Ohio, or it could be in Texas. It's what I would call a "me too" mall and didn't really have a sense of place or a sense of the community that it's supposed to serve. Rumsey: I know that last year, I understand, your company began managing a shopping center down in Fort Mill which targets largely the Hispanic demographic. Of course, east Charlotte has grown considerably in the last decade or 15 years or so in that demographic. So is that part of your marketing plan for the Eastland property? Segal: I think it's one option. Each project has to be looked at completely differently so we don't have a one-size fits all template. I think part of the excitement of these projects is to make it something special and different and not just a replication of what is going on across town or across the country. Rumsey: I'm sure you are aware that the mall's image, though, really has plummeted over the past decade or so. Have there been concerns about crime? And the major department stores have pulled out. How do you hope to overcome those issues and bring shoppers back to Eastland? Segal: I think the mall is at a crossroads right now. There are two ways that it can go. And really one of the ways is up to the city. You know, Charlotte, who has been really successful repositioning things like downtown and making it a great place to live, is very focused on this corridor. This is an opportunity for the city to consolidate the ownership and allow someone to redevelop the mall with a very wide range of things, to really make it the center of the community. If the city decides that it's not the right time or they are not interested in doing that, what we will do is redevelop the part of the mall that we own, which is the inline space, the center of the mall. It's really everything except for what we would call the "anchor spaces." Rumsey: So you would hope that the city would buy these vacant anchor stores? Segal: I think that that would be one way of the city being able to facilitate a large-scale redevelopment of the whole property. But, you know, it's really up to the city. It wasn't obviously a condition of me being involved in the mall. I'm just buying a certain part and happy doing that no matter what the city decides to do. Rumsey: Would the revamped Eastland Mall look and feel a lot like the malls that we have all come to be familiar with in cities across America, or different? And, if so, how would it be different? Segal: I'm a fan of the Rouse model. In the 50s and 60s, you started focusing on malls as a centerpiece of the community. You know, where there is live entertainment, and music, and you might find your dentist down there, you might find your accountant. What I don't do is take a project like this and fill it full of stores that you can find anywhere. I would much rather have a local coffee shop owned by someone who lives in the community than yet another Starbucks.