Cover Story: Eastland Mall's future

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Lights out at Eastland Mall.

Once 90 acres of prime real estate, once a crown jewel of shopping in the Carolinas - Eastland has officially gone under.  But it's not gone for good.

A new buyer came forward this week, gobbled up the property at a rock bottom price.  And that buyer has a plan.  But the company is not saying what it is just yet.

The owners forced out all the remaining tenants on Wednesday.  They plan to re-open the mall, but when and what it will look like is still a mystery.

A reflection in the window from a man moving out the final pieces of Eastland Mall.  Empty stores.  Only the gumball kiosk left.  Not the way we remember Eastland Mall.

This was Authentics Signature on Sunday.  Here it is today.  No customers.  Only the moving men.

Store owner Prakash Dadlani has been here for six years.  It's been his second home.

"I'm very sad to leave this place and go," he said.  "It was bread and butter for me. What choice do you have to leave?"

The mall's fate was sealed last November, once the City council decided not to buy parts of the mall and seek a public private partnership to redevelop it.

With the mall's owner in foreclosure, Boxer Property of Houston, Texas swooped in last week and bought the main section of the mall at a fire sale price: $2 million.

Boxer has no interest in buying the four anchor stores.  It says the ball is in the city's court if it wants something more grand on the site.

But economic development director Tom Flynn says he's seen nothing from Boxer yet.  "If the marketplace comes to the city and says we would like to do this.. we would like the city to consider an investment of this this this then the directions from the council and the mayor were to for this to have to analyze that and bring that to council for their consideration."

Developers have eyed the site for years, imagining the possibilities.  Plans for a greenway and park along with retail, office and residential space.

In fact, the city hired a consultant from Washington, DC last year that recommended potential uses for the 90 acres.  But those plans were later dropped.

Boxer Property, the new owners, manage the Plaza Fiesta Mall on Carowinds Boulevard next to the theme park at the state line.

There's talk of doing something similar at Eastland.  It would match what Boxer did when they took over a mall like Eastland in Fort Worth, Texas.

The plans would appear to fall short of what the city envisioned.

"Given the state of the capital markets and given the ability to finance something at this point.. this is what the markets have brought us," says Flynn.

Says store owner Prakash Dadlani, "It is so centrally located in the heart of the city.. there could be a lot more done to this neighborhood. The folks I talk to who live here they don't want to leave this area. They're happy."

What are the remaining businesses going to do?  Some are moving to other area malls, not all are so lucky.

One owner told us there were about 50 businesses here at the end - employing about 500 people.

They're disappointed the new buyers didn't decide to keep the place open while they try to decide what's going to happen with the mall.

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