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Choice at Eastland: tennis, swimming … or a Target?
Neighborhood pans idea for ‘large-scale retail’ instead of recreation
The following article appeared in the March 3, 2023, edition of The Charlotte Ledger, an e-newsletter with original local news by experienced journalists. Free and paid subscriptions available. Find out more.
City Council committee to review 3 proposals for Eastland Mall site on Monday
The old Eastland Mall site in east Charlotte is being prepared for a first phase of construction, which will have housing. City Council members are expected to decide on options for a future phase.
By Tony Mecia
A City Council committee is expected to hear details Monday of three proposals submitted for the old Eastland Mall site — including one that envisions a Target on the property.
With the land cleared to make way for the residential first phase of the project, the city and developer Crosland Southeast have been working to identify projects for a future phase — the one that originally was going to be a practice facility for Charlotte FC.
When the team decided to locate the facility off Monroe Road at Levine Properties’ McAlpines Center, that opened the door to other possibilities. The city set a Feb. 6 deadline for Eastland proposals, and city staff members are sharing details of three of them on Monday, assistant city manager Tracy Dodson told The Ledger.
Dodson declined to provide the details ahead of Monday’s meeting. But residents on the city’s eastside and other city sources confirmed that the three projects under consideration are believed to be proposals for a tennis complex, a swimming complex and a Target.
Pros and cons: The tennis and swimming proposals would seem to be more in line with the previously announced vision for the site, which was to have a recreational facility that could be a regional tourism draw with youth tournaments. But each of those proposals would require taxpayer money and would require coordination and probably fundraising — which makes them more tentative than a single deep-pocketed company building a store.
The Target proposal potentially has the advantage of costing the city nothing or very little. But residents say building a retail chain store on the old mall site is less transformational, and would be less of an economic draw, than city-subsidized recreation-focused projects that they say they have been promised.
“We want something our community can use but that brings in folks,” said Greg Asciutto, board chair of CharlotteEAST, which advocates for east Charlotte. “We have no issue with the request for public funds to get these projects off the ground. We have missed so much over the last decade and a half in terms of public investment from the city. We are long overdue.”
CharlotteEAST plans to issue a news release today that seems to take a dig at “large-scale retail” on the site. It says, in part: “We are encouraged that multiple sports entities have stepped up to submit bids and are excited to see how they promise to fill the economic void created by the failure of large-scale retail at Eastland Mall.”
The City Council member who represents the area, Marjorie Molina, said she was unavailable to discuss the topic before Monday.
The three competing proposals appear to be:
Tennis. The Charlotte Business Journal reported in December that Charlotte Country Day School tennis coach Calvin Davis and Charlotte Tennis Association President Joel Turner are leading an effort to build a $55M tennis center with 12 indoor courts and 46 outdoor courts, mostly clay. The proposal would need $45M in public funding, with a new nonprofit called Charlotte Serves raising the balance.
Swimming. A coalition of local swim groups is backing a proposal to build a state-of-the-art aquatic facility that could attract major national swim meets, while also focusing on community learn-to-swim programs. The facility would be run by a not-for-profit public-private partnership. Supporters say the county-run Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center uptown is inadequate and unable to hold large swim meets, with swim parents this year being turned away because there wasn’t space for spectators. The cost is unclear but, like the tennis proposal, the swim facility would likely require significant taxpayer money in addition to fundraising. It’s being led by Tim Whitmire, a business consultant and co-founder of men’s workout group F3, and developer Brian Bucci. (Disclosure: Whitmire is a contributing editor to The Ledger.)
Target. The specifics are unclear. But it likely wouldn’t require a public subsidy and has more of a firm plan than the recreational options. Critics say there’s already a nearby Target on Albemarle Road.
Shifting possibilities: It’s also possible that the proposals could change leading up to or after Monday’s committee meeting, or that another candidate for the site could emerge if council members are dissatisfied with the available options.
Crosland Southeast broke ground last summer on the first phase of the development, known as Eastland Yards. It consists of 155 townhomes, 70 to 120 affordable housing units for seniors, 280 apartments, 20,000 s.f. of retail and open space, the Charlotte Business Journal reported. It is scheduled to open in 2024.
Construction crews have done preliminary site work, but nothing is coming out of the ground yet. Several construction workers, taking a break from their construction equipment, were eating lunch there Thursday afternoon when we dropped by.
The mall, once a vibrant center of life on the city’s eastside, closed in 2010 after years of decline. The city bought the 80-acre site and for years has worked to devise a suitable plan.
The council’s Jobs and Economic Development Committee meets at 2 p.m. Monday and will likely make a later report to the full council.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project