The Charlotte City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to buy the 80-acre Eastland Mall property for just over $13 million and will become the first sole owner of the site since the mall opened in 1975.
Councilwoman Beth Pickering called this the best issue for the good of Charlotte that she’s faced in her time on the council.
Speculation has been hot on uses for the once-popular mall since the council voted in a closed session last week to put the Eastland purchase on Monday’s agenda. The council said that film studios have expressed interest in buying the mall site to develop sound stages.
The city’s purchase combines the property that is currently owned by Houston-based Boxer Properties and Sears, along with the companies that own the former Belk, Dillard’s, Firestone and Hollywood Video sites.
Councilman John Autry, whose district includes the mall property, said that the purchase of the property in east Charlotte would make a big difference in the redevelopment of the community.
“It would make a presence for that part of the city,” Autry said. “It allows us to be seen and known — lets us walk around with our chests poked out.”
The vote didn’t come as a surprise to many, however, as both Autry and Councilwoman Claire Fallon said last week that they expected the purchase of the languishing property to pass with ease.
Eastland Mall saw its last customers walk through the doors more than two years ago, when tenants were told to vacate the premises. Boxer Properties bought the mall – without the anchor stores – for $2 million in June 2010.
Changing demographics along with a violent reputation drove customers away from the mall, which featured an ice-skating rink and the area’s first food court. There were at least two shootings on the property in the last two years of operation, according to crime reports.
Councilman David Howard said that a deal with the film studios is not complete, but he expects the property to be successful regardless.
Before the council voted, many east Charlotte residents spoke, citing a need for revitalization in that neighborhood. Of the 12 citizens who spoke, 10 were in favor of the purchase.
Jack Brosch, who is running for U.S. Congress in the 12th District, was one of the two who voiced their opposition to the council. He claimed that it’s neither the authority nor the responsibility of the city to make the purchase.
Mayor Anthony Foxx took the opposite stance of Brosch. Foxx said it is decisions like this that decide the direction Charlotte goes in the next 25 years and it’s up to the City Council to make sure Charlotte is going in the right direction.
“For the entire time I’ve lived in this city, we have accepted that certain parts of our city can’t be more than what they are,” Foxx said. “The work we have to do as a community is to realign our thinking about our city.”