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GoodSports deal called ‘down and out’

GoodSports has asked for a one-year delay in talks with the city for its proposed amateur sports complex, illustrated above, near Bojangles' Coliseum on East Independence Boulevard.

GoodSports had proposed building this sports complex near Bojangles’ Coliseum along U.S. 74 in a partnership with the city of Charlotte. The city now considers the deal to be dead. Illustration courtesy GoodSports

The city of Charlotte does not expect to continue a deal with GoodSports Enterprises, the one-time proposed developer of an amateur sports complex near Bojangles’ Coliseum. And plans for the 20-acre city-owned tract at U.S. 74 and Briar Creek Road appear to be on hold.

Todd DeLong, commercial redevelopment manager for the city of Charlotte, said he has not heard from GoodSports, the Florida-based company that abruptly notified officials in February 2015 that it would suspend for 12 months a planned $76.7 million venture with the city to redevelop the site. At the time, GoodSports had been in negotiations with Charlotte for more than a year in a deal that proposed bringing an athletic field house and a 150-room hotel to East Independence Boulevard.

“We don’t anticipate that deal coming back,” said DeLong. “We’ve had no contact from them and we haven’t reached out.”

GoodSports said in a short fax to city officials last year that it needed to “focus” on a similar project planned for Wichita, Kansas, that has since fallen through. Company officials did not return repeated requests for comment.

No other future deals for the tract are on the horizon, either. DeLong said the city has not received any proposals from developers.

Nor, he said, has Charlotte solicited any.

“Quite frankly, we have so many other things going on,” he said. “There is so much demand on our time and services, with so many new jobs coming to the area. It’s a good problem to have.”

But that doesn’t mean the east Charlotte site has fallen off the city’s radar, DeLong said.

“This site is very much a priority for redevelopment, not only for the surrounding communities but also for the Charlotte region,” DeLong said, adding that the property offers tremendous opportunities to spark further development in the area.

DeLong said the city must “provide certainty on the types of uses and scale of development” it is looking to attract before it solicits potential developers.

City Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey, who represents District 1 where the coliseum is located, could not be reached for comment on her hopes for potential development at the site.

But Councilman John Autry of District 5, which abuts the coliseum area to the east, said he’s still enthusiastic about the role amateur sports could play in east Charlotte. The problem, he said, is getting such projects off the ground.

“The whole concept of amateur sports as an economic venture in a public-private partnership is untested,” he said.

Those were the same sentiments expressed by GoodSports Chief Executive Jerald Good. In an interview last year after tabling plans for Charlotte, Good said that cutting a deal with financiers to cover its $40 million share of the venture with the city had proven difficult. He said investors balked at signing on for projects that lack a profitable track record.

“It’s like any new venture when it first gets started,” Good said.

The lender, he said, “has no idea about demand.”

GoodSports was the sole company to respond to the city’s request for proposals on building amateur sports facilities near the coliseum.

The coliseum area is not the only east Charlotte site with available land for development. The former Eastland Mall, which sits in the middle of District 5, has sat vacant since the city bought the 80-acre parcel in 2012 with plans to add a multi-use project there. Separate plans from private developers, one for a movie studio and film school and the other for a recreation and entertainment complex, never materialized.

The city recently agreed to sell 11 acres to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, but the remaining 69 acres haven’t sparked much interest.

The problem, Autry said, comes down to dollars and cents.

He pointed to the latest Charlotte Mecklenburg Quality of Life study, which found that District 5 households had a median household income of $42,693 in 2014, well below the county median of $56,472.

By comparison, the median income in south Charlotte’s District 6, where several large mixed-use projects are planned, was $78,813.

“If you’re an investor, you’re going to look for a big return,” Autry said.

David Furman, an architect and principal at Centro Cityworks, agreed with Autry’s sentiments. He also said the former mall’s location works against future investment.

“All the major development in Charlotte occurs because there is something already there,” he said, describing the access to transit, restaurants, housing, employment, and hotels that exists in booming development areas such as South End.

“My thing about Eastland is that there’s no reason to be there,” he said, explaining that a residential neighborhood is not enough to support a major project unless it features something extremely compelling.

“They’d be starting from scratch,” he said. “Eastland is very detached from the core of the city.”

Autry, meanwhile, also believes the once crime-ridden tract suffers from a poor reputation that is difficult to shake.

“It seems a major impediment (to development) is the collective memory of what it once was,” he said.

But, Autry said, that doesn’t have to remain the case.

“We have a different community now,” he said, adding that cities are living entities in constant change and that the Eastland site would be a prime location for urban green space.

He cited the rise in home prices in several east Charlotte neighborhoods, saying that a home near Eastway Park recently sold for $246,000 and that a $500,000 property was under construction in Oakhurst.

The area has many possibilities for growth, he said, and circumstances will change for the better.

“Bojangles’ offers a good opportunity. All the infrastructure is in place,” he said, adding that he was hopeful that the magnet school slated for Eastland would benefit the community.

 

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