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'We cannot displace them' | City of Charlotte says there are potential new locations for Open Air Market

After public outcries, city staff is working to relocate those who once used the Eastland site as it gets set for redevelopment.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — City of Charlotte staff told councilmembers Monday night there could soon be permanent solutions after a skatepark and flea market were forced to move from the Eastland site as it gears up for redevelopment. 

The future of the Eastland Mall site is clear: It doesn't account for the DIY SkatePark or the Open Air Market. 

On Monday, Assistant City Manager Brent Cagle told councilmembers the city is currently looking for remnant city-owned properties. Once one is found, the city could lease it to those who lead the DIY SkatePark. 

However, the skatepark would have to create a nonprofit organization in order to lease the property from the city, paying their own insurance along with the lease, Cagle said. 

The location for the new park is still unclear as the city continues its search. Cagle said they hope to have a process outlined in a few weeks on how everything can fall into place. 

RELATED: East Charlotte skaters continue the fight to save skatepark set to be demolished

"The Eastland site was never designed for a permanent skatepark," At large Charlotte City Council Member Dimple Ajmera previously said. "You know, we have residents, we have neighbors that have been waiting for far too long for that site to be redeveloped to be an economic catalyst and economic catalyst for the region."

The Eastland Mall site has long been planned as the future site of the Charlotte FC Elite Academy headquarters. Following a redevelopment expected to cost millions, the land is slated to host mixed-income housing, a park, greenways, businesses, and a full-service grocery store in addition to the headquarters. 

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It also means there will no longer be room for vendors of the Open Air Market, a market that uses the parking lot at the Eastland site to sell their goods on the weekends. 

At Monday's meeting, city leaders said the city is working to find space for the Open Air Market to relocate to and is talking with vendors and possible sites that could help accommodate the need.

RELATED: With Eastland flea market shut down, vendors want a new location but the city says it's not possible

However, Councilmember Dimple Ajmera blasted the city for not doing enough quickly enough for the vendors. 

"We failed them," Ajmera said. "So many immigrant families depend, their livelihoods depend, on this site. We cannot displace them. They are not asking for a handout, they're asking to be a part of the catalyst that we've promised them." 

Ajmera scolded city staff saying the city talks a lot about displacement, but that the city is displacing vendors who have built a community at the site as well as a livelihood. 

City Manager Marcus Jones refuted the criticism. He said city staff worked with vendors and their representatives after they came out in numbers to protest their displacement at prior council meetings. 

Cagle said he expects to have an update with a more firm solution for the market in the next seven to 10 days. 

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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