CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte’s plans to remake the old Eastland Mall will apparently not include the mall itself.
A City Council committee Wednesday voted unanimously to spend $871,520 on a “surgical” demolition of the mall, which could begin in late summer. When the project is finished, there will only be asphalt on the 80 acres where a bustling mall, complete with an ice skating rink, once stood.
The city said the demolition doesn’t change its long-range plans for the Eastland site, which could include movie studios.
The two developers who are interested in redeveloping the site told the city they have no use for the mall, which opened in 1975 and was once the commercial hub for east Charlotte. But the massive mall — nearly 1.2 million square feet — began a long slide in the 1990s as affluent residents left the area and other malls such as SouthPark took its business. Eastland closed in 2010.
“We have received repeated indication from the development community that the buildings have no reusable value,” said Peter Zeiler of the city’s economic development office. “We aren’t cutting off any new options by demolishing the building.”
City officials had speculated in the past that demolishing the mall would cost millions of dollars. But the relatively low price is due to a contractor planning to salvage materials such as steel and copper, and possibly escalators and elevators, Zeiler said.
The full City Council must still approve the demolition contract. That could happen later this month.
The city’s deadline for site proposals is May 30. Two groups have indicated they are interested in a public-private partnership for Eastland: Rick and Noah Lazes, who developed the N.C. Music Factory; and Charlotte movie executive Bert Hesse.
The Lazes said their idea for the site doesn’t include movie studios. Hesse has said he would spend tens of millions of dollars on studios, offices, a film school and possibly a hotel.
One interested group, SHM Partners of Los Angeles, had flown executives to Charlotte to tour the mall in January. That group was interested in re-using some of Eastland for studios, but it backed out of consideration because it was unlikely there would be enough public money, according to the city.
City staff members plan to pick a winner of the two proposals in June.
The city bought the mall in August for $13.2 million. That includes 80 acres, along with two outlying buildings that once housed a Firestone tire store and a Hollywood video location. The city bought the site in part to make it more attractive for developers. The mall site previously had multiple owners, and the city was worried that would make it difficult for a private company to consolidate and purchase the land.
The city has spent $344,761 in maintenance and securing the mall from August to April. The city has turned off the mall’s heating and cooling systems, but alarms and interior and exterior lighting are being maintained.
The money to buy Eastland – and to demolish it – comes from $16 million in bonds approved by voters in 2010. The demolition would leave about $1.2 million left in that fund.
The city has recommended Environmental Holdings Group for the job. That Charlotte firm was the low bidder.
During Wednesday’s Economic Development Committee meeting, council member David Howard, a Charlotte native, expressed nostalgia for the mall. He asked whether it could be saved, but staff members said the buildings had no value.
After the meeting, former City Council member Nancy Carter gave current District 5 council member John Autry a hug, and thanked him for the vote. Carter had fought for years to redevelop the mall before retiring from her east Charlotte seat.
One idea discussed during the meeting would be to save the Eastland Mall sign and use it later as a part of public art.