CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- East Charlotte residents rallied Sunday to bring a movie studio to the former Eastland Mall site, even as the prospects for the project looked dim.
Studio Charlotte developer Bert Hesse pitched the project to a supportive crowd at Steamers Sports Pub, showing a video of what the studio and surrounding hotel, greenway, and school would look like. He also talked about the city s snub on Thursday, when the council s Economic Development Committee refused to give him an extension on his exclusivity deal with the city.
I need something from the city to show they're behind this project, said Hesse, who said he has lived in Charlotte for 27 years, after the presentation.
The multi-million dollar project would bring big production companies like Paramount and Disney to Charlotte to shoot movies and TV shows, said Hesse.
A movie studio would be the project s first phase, followed by public areas like shopping, a hotel, and a movie theater. Eventually, a CMS magnet school for movie production would be built on the site, said Hesse. He touted opportunities for students to learn the movie business with hands-on experience.
It s time to move forward with Studio Charlotte, said supporter Donna Reed to a rousing round of applause from the crowd of about 75 supporters.
Linda Roth sat in that crowd. The 60-some-year-old woman said she grew up on the east side of Charlotte, and wants to see the site redeveloped. She doesn t see anything else on the table.
Right now we just need something really, really good, said Roth, and unless you have something else that's going attract a lot of people, I just don't think we're going to survive.
Hesse said he needs a five-month extension to his exclusivity contract with the city to make sure state film industry incentives are in place. He said the legislature will vote on it in July, but the city denied the extension at an Economic Development Committee meeting Thursday.
That could open the site to other projects when the contract is up at the end of the month.
City councilman Michael Barnes, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said Hesse hasn t proven to the city he has the financing he needs to get the movie studio up and running.
Hesse said he hasn t revealed his investors because they asked to remain private. But that doesn t satisfy Barnes or the city, who would be giving up a $13 million piece of land without knowing if a working studio would ever be completed before the money ran out.
How are you going to pay for it? said Barnes about the project Sunday. He needs to show the city he can get it done.
Hesse said the city should trust him and the studio s multi-billion dollar builder, Pacifica Ventures.
I'm not asking the city to turn over 80 acres to me without them being very confident the financial structure is in place, he said.