Charlotte City Council approves Eastland Mall purchase

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Monday night Charlotte City Council unanimously approved the purchase of Eastland Mall in East Charlotte.  The property has been abandoned for the past two years and is slated to get new life as a movie studio.

City leaders now must find a movie company that's interested in the 80 acre piece of property.

Several supporters showed up with signs in support of the deal.  About a dozen people addressed council.  Most were in favor but they were two who were opposed to the idea.  They claim bringing Hollywood to Charlotte would cause mass traffic confusion to the area and another neighbor claimed the deal was too tricky.

Residents in the area have expressed interest in converting the empty shops into studio space and sound stages, and city council members are considering the proposal.  The space would cost the city about $13 million.

Council members say the money is sitting in the bank, thanks to bonds voters approved years ago.

Beth Petty, director of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission hopes council members will vote to buy the property.

"Absolutely, I think it's needed," said Petty. "We've actually lost productions in the past because we just didn't have a big enough space to put them in."

While there is growing support for the project in Charlotte, the movie studio wouldn't be the only one in the area.  The Queen City already has several small studios and a larger facility 50 miles away in Shelby.  There's also a studio in Raleigh and a well established movie lot in Wilmington, which has earned the nickname "Hollywood East."

Petty said a new studio in Charlotte could lead to some friendly competition between the Queen City and the Port City.

"There probably will be some competition, but we're very different. The look of Wilmington is very, very different from the look of this region, so I don't think we'd be in competition every day," said Petty.
Wilmington's mayor Bill Saffo agreed.
"I think it's a good thing for the entire state," said Saffo. "I think there are a lot more productions coming this way. We can't handle it all. And there's going to be productions that are filmed in other parts of the state because of whatever the script may call for."
With several leaders in both cities in agreement, it's up to Charlotte city council to decide whether to vote "yes" on more "lights, camera, action" for the Charlotte region.
Council will pay $750,000 toward the purchase of Eastland by the end of July and will pay the balance by the end of August.
A movie set could be up and running at Eastland by late 2013
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