Studio Charlotte will move on from Eastland Mall site

Studio Charlotte will move on from Eastland Mall site


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 6:42 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 8:37 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Plans for a movie soundstage and film school at the old Eastland Mall site are pretty much dead in the water.

City leaders on Thursday voted not to give Studio Charlotte more time to finalize plans. A full vote before the city council happens next week.

Now, Studio Charlotte says it's ready to break ground somewhere else this summer.  They also confirmed the identity of one of its investors, Leidos Constructors, an international builder with $6 billion in revenues.

One of the big concerns city officials had for months with Studio Charlotte is an old movie line: "show us the money."

But Studio Charlotte says what it and Leidos Constructors didn't have from the city was a clear "what's next" and land agreement after an exclusive negotiating period expires at the end of March.

It's why Studio Charlotte was reluctant to reveal more detailed cost and financial plans the city says it needed to move forward. The city owns the 80 acre site.

"There was no end game in this. Do we get the land?  Do we get a TIF (tax increment financing)? Do we buy it for $13 million? What is the end decision besides asking us for more material?" said Studio Charlotte CEO Bert Hesse.

Leidos had similar concerns, according to a memo to city leaders and confirmed by Studio Charlotte.

"I do think that the city and SCD never agreeing to a ‘legal link to land transfer’ is, and has always been, a glaring and critical void," the memo says.

Later the memo says:

"When dealing with a private-sector land owner, it is vital to have this clear path to future land control."


"Although good intentioned, verbal promises of land transfer from current City officials, and hollow MoU’s won’t fill this gap."

The city says it's time to explore new options and move on from Studio Charlotte.

"We were led to believe that there was a substantive project here that was going to be moving forward quickly and that was not the case," said council member and Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes.

Studio Charlotte says they'll take their backers and build elsewhere. That might be Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida or South Carolina.

"At some point you just have to cut your losses and say you know. We tried. This didn't work out," Hesse said.

Hesse says Studio Charlotte could build in North Carolina as well, but that depends upon state lawmakers continuing film industry tax credits. That won't be known until summer.

The city says the 80 acre site might be too big for one developer, so it might need to be parceled into two or three sections.