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Home / Action Items / City Council scraps full film-studio plan, approves Crescent purchase of Uptown land

City Council scraps full film-studio plan, approves Crescent purchase of Uptown land

CHARLOTTE – The city is back to square one on the redevelopment of Eastland Mall, after City Council members voted unanimously Monday to reject a request from Studio Charlotte Development for a five-month extension on exclusive negotiating rights. The two parties have been in talks since October, when the six-month negotiating period began.

Once that period ends on March 31, the city can open communications with other developers.

But before the city gets involved with one or more developers, it plans to take time to determine to best way to move forward with a redevelopment of the 80-acre former Eastland Mall property.

Brad Richardson, the city’s economic development manager, said at Monday’s meeting that his staff determined that the property may be too complex for a single developer and suggested the city consider dividing the parcel into multiple pieces. He said the city staff suggests designing new stormwater infrastructure and a new master street framework before working with other developers to form a master plan for redevelopment.

Studio Charlotte Development’s plan was a $300 million project that included the movie studio and sound stages on half the parcel, and a film school, cinema, hotel, apartments and shops, among other things, on the remaining 40 acres.

Richardson said Studio Charlotte never gave the city specific development costs for the plan, citing that as one reason the two sides weren’t able to get closer to an agreement.

The city isn’t giving up on the film industry, however. Several City Council members indicated their pleasure with Richardson’s staff recommendation that the rear portion of the site by reserved for film uses, which could include Studio Charlotte.

It remains unclear exactly what the city’s next step will be, but it is looking for guidance.

“We’re looking to have a master developer guide the breakup of 80 acres into manageable parcels,” said Mumford, director of Charlotte Neighborhood and Business Services. “What we would entertain is to find someone to guide us through this, do a quick assessment of the site and test that to make sure it makes sense.”

Also at its Monday meeting, the City Council unanimously accepted a bid from Crescent Acquisitions LLC, a subsidiary of Charlotte developer Crescent Communities, to buy a 5.3-acre piece of prime Uptown land.

Crescent’s bid for the land, at the southwest corner of Caldwell and Stonewall streets, was chosen over two other companies, MacCompany’s LLC and Portman Holdings.

Tony Korolos, the city’s real estate division manager, said the city has been working with the three companies for about a year on the purchase.

Crescent has proposed developing a mixed-use project with about 600 apartments, a 450- to 500-room hotel and around 70,000 square feet of retail including a grocery store, Korolos said.

The parcel that Crescent is looking to buy from the city is part of a multiparcel land package that the city has contracted with former city employees Kent Walker and Kent Winslow to sell. The city is selling the properties in order to pay off the $20 million it borrowed to help finance the NASCAR Hall of Fame. So far one parcel has been sold, a 2.28-acre wedge at Stonewall and McDowell streets, for $3.8 million. Charlotte-based Proffitt Dixon Partners bought the land in May 2013 to develop a 210-unit apartment complex that is now under construction. The city is required to repay the loan only as the land is sold.

The parcels are all zoned UMUD, an urban, mixed-use district that allows the tallest and densest development of the city’s zoning classifications. The city’s plan for those properties is to add office buildings, hotels or apartment complexes, all with some other commercial use included, Walker said.

The land won’t be transferred immediately to Crescent, the city is required to accept upset bids during the next 10 days. A qualifying upset bid is one that would increase the purchase price by at least 5 percent plus $50 and would include terms at least as beneficial to the city as the original contract. The upset-bid period is standard practice on sales of city-owned land.

In order to complete the sale, Crescent would have to make a deposit equal to 5 percent of the $10.3 million purchase price, according to the city. There will be a 180-day due-diligence period, and closing would be required within 60 days after that.

Korolos said Crescent won’t break ground on the project until late 2015, if the sale does go through.

In other actions, the council:

  • Approved closing a portion of Old Lancaster Highway to make way for the flagship campus of Elevation Church. Elevation was approved in July for a rezoning on the 21-acre property to build its 264,000-square-foot campus in the Ballantyne area. According to city documents, the road closing is consistent with the rezoning, but needed separate council approval.
  • Approved spending $1.8 million on renovation and an addition to a corporate hangar at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The contractor on the project is Custom Building Systems, according to city documents. The renovation will include work on 6,000 square feet for offices, restrooms and support space for tenant staff. 

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