New proposal for Eastland includes athletic fields and a tech lab

The City of Charlotte is entertaining proposals for how to make use of the more than 20 acres of space.
The City of Charlotte is entertaining proposals for how to make use of the more than 20 acres of space.
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 3:03 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Axios Charlotte) - The City of Charlotte is entertaining proposals for how to make the best use of more than 20 acres at Eastland Yards.

Driving the news: A new proposal the city will consider would include athletic fields, an esports center and an event space. The city is also considering proposals that include a Target, an aquatics facility and a tennis complex.

Catch up quick: The city is working with developer Crosland Southeast to transform the old Eastland Mall into an economic driver for east Charlotte. Ground broke on the project in August.

  • Tepper Sports and Entertainment planned to build a Charlotte FC practice facility on the site with $110 million in public hospitality funds. But the company pulled out in favor of another location.

Why it matters: For years, the city has grappled with what to do with the old site of Eastland Mall, which closed in 2010. Developers have proposed all kinds of plans for the property, and they all failed.

“That space has been there for 13 years. 13 years with nothing there,” council member Marjorie Molina, who represents the eastern District 5, said recently. “We drive, the ones of us who live there, down Albemarle Road, and we’ve been looking at dirt forever.”

  • The public-private partnership is intended to create a regional draw to east Charlotte, which includes many underserved areas.
  • But two of the parties who are interested in the site are asking for upward of $35 million in taxpayer dollars to bring their vision to life. Some council members are concerned about that amount matched with a much smaller private investment.

Go deeper: Eastland redevelopment will move forward without Tepper Sports and Entertainment

There are four proposals under consideration.

A racquet sports and entertainment district, proposed by nonprofit Carolina Serves and tennis coach Calvin Davis Jr.

  • Details: 80-plus public courts for tennis, pickleball and padel (a cross between tennis and squash); space for training and tournaments; office space; an event lawn; and a parking deck — across 23.7 acres
  • The money: Up to $45 million in tax dollars and $15 million needed to be fundraised
  • Economic impact: An estimated $36 million annually

An aquatic center, proposed by Brian Bucci (Bucci Developments), Tim Whitmire (CXN Advisory) and other partners

  • Details: One or two 50-meter by 25-yard competition pools, 8-lane 25-yard program pools, diving platforms and up to 2,500 seats — all on 13 acres
  • The money: $35 million to $45 million in public funds and $10 million to be fundraised
  • Economic impact: $46 million annually, per estimates

A Target

  • Details: A 148,000-square-foot store on 11 to 15 acres
  • The money: $0 in public investments
  • Economic impact: 250 to 300 jobs

Athletic fields, event space and esports center

Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari helped spearhead another proposal for the redevelopment of the property vacated by TSE at Eastland which would include athletic fields, event space and a technology/esports center.

Esports facility rendering
Esports facility rendering(Southern Entertainment via Axios Charlotte)

Details: The bid, which Bokhari says was submitted to the city on Monday, comes from a partnership of three groups: Southern Entertainment, a Charlotte-based event company that has produced events like the Carolina Country Music Festival, the Charlotte Soccer Academy and Carolina Esports Hub, in which Bokhari is a minority investor.

  • The groups are asking for $30 million in public funding, with another $53 million coming from private investment.
  • The proposed project would include six multi-use athletic fields and a “Hub” to serve as a technology lab, esports center and event space for up to 2,500.

Of note: Because City Council is ultimately deciding on which bid to select, Bokhari says he will recuse himself from council deliberations and considerations on Eastland moving forward.

  • In a letter Bokhari forwarded to Axios, city attorney Patrick Baker suggested he could disclose his interests in the project and consider recusing himself from voting. But he noted that Bokhari will not derive income directly from the project, and owns “substantially” less than 10% of the corporate entity looking to form an agreement with the city.
  • State law prevents council members from owning more than 10% of a company that does business with the city.

What’s next: Bokhari says the city’s Jobs and Economic Development Committee will receive a report on Monday, May 1, on Eastland proposals after the deadline was extended by 60 days.

Related: City leaders discuss three proposals for part of Eastland Mall redevelopment site