Piece by piece, Eastland Mall crumbles

Piece by piece, Eastland Mall crumbles

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by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on October 30, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:56 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The demolition of Eastland Mall includes huge chunks of old buildings coming down quickly.

The site along Central Avenue looks like a War of the Worlds wasteland, with mammoth machines mangling metal and ripping apart the exterior. Some chunks are so big you can feel the ground shake when they hit.

"Methodically bring down each structure,” said Project Manager Mike Craddock, with Environmental Holdings Group.

Craddock’s job is a big one. He’s got a million square feet to remove, including former stores like Dillard’s, Belk, Burlington Coat Factory and the food court.

Here, grown men feel like kids playing with erector sets.

"The operators enjoy what they're doing,” Craddock said.

There are literally debris piles here everywhere, but only two piles are going into the garbage.  The rest of this is going to be recycled.

That includes 11,000 tons of scrap metal. The price of the recycling was figured into the city's demolition cost.  Thirty thousand tons of brick and concrete will be crushed and used to fill the site in.

"It's a considerable amount, so when you are able to separate what can be recycled compared to what has to be thrown away as trash or construction debris, there's just not that much,” said Craddock.

Eastland Mall opened in 1975. At the time it was the biggest mall in the state.  The indoor ice skating rink was a huge draw for kids, adults and love stories.

Even Craddock has a good one.

"I actually met my wife here, so I have a very fond memory there,” Craddock said.  "The rest is history."

The mall is also part of Dennis Blakeny's history. He lives a block away.

"I just walked up there to do window shopping,” he said.

He spent many hours walking Eastland Mall with his children and grandchildren.

"I know I miss it.”

One thing neighbors won't miss is the mall sitting empty, which it has been for years.

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory once called the area around it a "corridor of crap." The city has since bought it.

"For us, it's a commitment to see it through,” said City of Charlotte Engineering Project Manager Monifa Hendrickson.

The plan is to get a huge plot of land minutes away from uptown ready for redevelopment.

"Just re-energizing everything from the streetcar project to driving business to this area,” Hendrickson said.

"Old things go, new things come up,” Blakeny said.

That transition is something impressive to watch.

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