CHARLOTTE — The city hopes to turn the former Eastland Mall site into a transit-oriented, mixed-use hub that will suite both public and private interests.
A concept for the site, which was presented to the city’s Economic Development and Global Competitiveness Committee on Thursday afternoon, includes mixed-use development, such as multifamily housing and retail and office space, as well as a K-8 magnet school and a public park that would wrap around the site’s mixed-use structures, which will be in the center of the property.
The city bought the property in 2012 for $13.2 million with plans to have a single developer propose a large, multi-use project.
However, it could not come to an agreement with Studio Charlotte Development, which proposed a $300 million phased-in project that would include a movie studio, sound stages, a film school, a cinema, a hotel, apartments and shops.
Last year the City Council unanimously rejected Studio Charlotte Development’s request for a five-month extension on exclusive negotiating rights for the project.
The only other proposal was from ARK Ventures, which in August 2013 pulled its proposal for a $154 million recreation and entertainment complex that would have included an artificial ski slope and a skate park.
At Thursday’s meeting, the city’s Interim Planning Director Ed McKinney said the goal was to include a variety of uses on the property in a way that would contribute to the existing surrounding community.
“It’s intentionally designed not to be one single big space,” he said.
The first step would be the school, followed by the park, then the mixed-use development. Of the site’s 80 acres, 12 acres would be for the school, 22 acres would be for the park, 26 acres would be for mixed-use space and the remaining land would be roads.
Patrick Mumford, director of the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services Department, said the land for the school is expected to be sold to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools by the end of the year. If that happens, he said, construction could start as early as spring 2016, which would allow the school to open for fall semester of 2018.
The city plans to sell the land for the park to the county, and the county’s Park and Recreation Department would manage it. McKinney said that ideally, the site’s stormwater retention pond would be integrated into the park to serve both functional and aesthetic purposes.
As for the rest of the site, Mumford said it could take from five to 10 years to completely build out.
Councilwoman and committee Vice Chair Vi Alexander Lyles said she would like to see private developers handle the mixed-use portion of the site.
Mumford said the city’s best option would be to sell several small parcels to private developers for the sake of encouraging a variety of architectural uses. He also noted that would help the city cover its investment in the property.
The site plan that McKinney presented included a proposed Gold Line Streetcar station along Central Avenue that would be part of the Gold Line’s third and final phase. If the final phase of the Gold Line becomes a reality, McKinney said that under this plan, the streetcar would run around the outskirts of the park and turn around to go back toward center city.
“The nice thing about the design is that the design works while we’re waiting on the streetcar to get out there,” Mumford said.
Next steps for the project include finalizing the land agreement with CMS, negotiating the sale of the park land to Mecklenburg County, refining the budget and development strategy and gauging private development interest.
“We are at the point now that we have something tangible to take out to the market,” Mumford said.
Michael Barnes, mayor pro tem and chairman of the Economic Development and Global Competitiveness Committee, said integrating the Gold Line into the project was a good idea, and that he was pleased with the progress that had been made since the last presentation in February.
“I think that this is a great next step from where we were a couple months ago,” he said.