Council QuickiesNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: Eastland Proposals Deemed Unimpressive

The new Charlotte City Council stands behind the dais.
Charlotte City Council is sworn in. From left: New rep Marjorie Molina, incumbent Renee Johnson, incumbent Dimple Ajmera, returning rep James ‘Smuggie’ Mitchell, incumbent Braxton Winston, returning rep LaWana Mayfield, Mayor Vi Lyles, new rep Dante Anderson, incumbent Malcolm Graham, incumbent Tariq Bokhari, incumbent Victoria Watlington, and incumbent Ed Driggs. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

As is the new plan this year for the first Monday of each month, Charlotte City Council spent the Monday, March 6, holding committee meetings then gathered together upstairs at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center so a representative from each of the four committees could fill everyone in on what they had learned, discussed and decided in their respective meetings throughout the day.

It’s rare that any real decisions are made at these meetings, as conversations often focus heavily on process. In short, welcome to the monthly wonk meeting. That being said, Monday’s meeting did carry some meaningful discussion about proposed plans for part of the former Eastland Mall site.

Transportation & Planning Committee

Ed Driggs said the committee discussed trees. The city is in the midst of an analysis project to evaluate Charlotte’s canopy. First such project in four years. Committee also recommends abolition of Alternative Compliance Review Committee in light of UDO.

Braxton Winston suggested Transportation & Planning Committee could find an opportunity for intergovernmental collaborative work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools based on school rezonings sparking conversations in city council’s zoning meetings and the fact that CMS runs bigger public transit operation than the city.

Budget, Governance and Intergovernmental Relations Committee

James Mitchell reminded council members of a few upcoming meetings with state legislators, including a trip to Raleigh to meet with and lobby lawmakers next week.

Tariq Bokhari said that some of Charlotte’s brightest future leaders and experts in a range of fields serve on Charlotte’s 30+ boards and commissions, but he believes a disconnect exists between those boards and the council. His concern is that city staff acts as a wall between the two.

Victoria Watlington disagreed, stating that her Housing, Safety and Community Committee has good communications with each board and commission underneath it.

Bokhari said he would still like to take the lead on finding some way to create a “window in the wall” that he was referring to between council and the smaller boards and commissions.

Jobs and Economic Development Committee

Malcolm Graham discussed the Eastland development. Crosland Southeast is moving forward with its retail, residential, park plans, but the city still needs to decide on what will go on the 20 acres that Tepper Sports pulled out of.

Having reached its Feb. 6 deadline for proposals, the city has received three submissions. The first is a racquet sports and entertainment complex, built by Carolina Serves, consisting of 80 courts ranging from tennis to pickleball. They want public investment of $45 million to complete the $55 million project. They do not have the remaining $10 million and would need to fundraise for that.

The spot where Central Flea Market originally stood in the old Eastland site has been barricaded
Eastland Mall shut down 13 years ago. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

The second proposal is the Eastland Aquatic Center. Project cost: $45-$55 million. They are requesting a $35-$45 million public investment, would also need to raise remaining $10 million.

The third proposal is a Target, which would cost $35 million, none of which would be publicly funded and the company could start on construction right away.

The committee recommended extending the proposal process another 60 days, as they are not impressed with any of the three options, though those will still be on the table. City attorney Patrick Baker sounded doubtful anyone else will submit a proposal in the next two months.

James Mitchell said he believes it sends the wrong message to the business community that the city is now extending the deadline it had previously set for Feb. 6.

“The end goal here is to make sure that the people who live here have the highest and best outcome,” said Marjorie Molina, who represents D5 where Eastland is. She said it sounds like council is already leaning toward/arguing for Carolina Serves.

Molina thinks the “shotgun process” was created to cater to Carolina Serves or Eastland Aquatic and then a third option, Target, hopped in. She said the extension encourages one of these bidders to bring their A game. “I’m insulted that you’re bringing your B game.”

Housing, Safety and Community Committee

Building on her argument from earlier in the meeting, Victoria Watlington said the committee has been focused on hearing from each of the boards and commissions serving under it.

With new “enhancements” to the city’s Housing Trust Fund as well as funding for Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing, Watlington said the priority right now is finding ways to get money out the door faster to those who can use it.

Up next: There’s a budget workshop scheduled for Thursday, March 9 and a business meeting on Monday, March 13.

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