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OPINION: Don’t Put a Target at Eastland Yards

The former Eastland Mall site, a lot of mud and one road.
A Target superstore is one of the bids for a space in Eastland Yards, where Eastland Mall used to stand. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Ask any Charlotte native born in the 1990s or prior about the Eastland Mall, and you’ll likely get caught in a sweeping wave of nostalgia. With a twinkle in their eye, they’ll share stories about how that’s where they got their ears pierced, or it’s where they took their kids for photos with Santa each Christmas season, or perhaps they had their 10th birthday party at the ice-skating rink. Maybe it’s where they met their grandparents for lunch each Sunday after church. Perhaps they bought their wife’s engagement ring there, learned to drive in the parking lot, or had their first kiss in the food court.

I’ve heard friends share every one of those stories, and there are millions more.

My own Eastland Mall memory dates back to 2006. I was a freshman at Davidson College, and my crush invited me and some friends to go ice skating there. The mall was a ghost town at that point, but we had a blast.

No first kiss encounter there for me, but I’m happy to report that the aforementioned crush and I are celebrating 13 years of marriage this summer. And here’s the kicker: We’ve made countless more Eastland memories together through the years.

Eight years ago, we bought a house just a stone’s throw away from where the mall once stood. We moved in a few weeks before our oldest was born and what we initially thought would be a starter home has become our forever home.

We love our home because we love our neighborhood. East Charlotte is one of the most vibrant, richly diverse, interesting, and distinct areas of our city and we feel tremendously fortunate to live here.

Like so many others, we’ve waited with deep anticipation for something to fill the spot where we went ice skating all those years ago. And when prospect after prospect fell through year after year, we savored the fruits of the community’s efforts to fill the void in the meantime. Give us a wasteland and the Charlotte East neighbors will give you a beloved skate park, a vibrant market, and a scrappy COVID-19 testing clinic

To hear that we might have said farewell to those diamonds in the rough only for a big-box retailer to come in their place is deeply disappointing — nay, insulting. A superstore will surely suck the soul out of the area.

Plainly put, it does not fit.

According to a report generated by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Quality of Life Explorer, only 13% of residents in the areas directly surrounding Eastland are white. The 2020 Census indicates that the median household income for Eastland’s zip code (28212) is $44,747.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Target caters to white, upper-middle-class women (I should know, I am one). To plop one down at Eastland will no doubt swiftly expedite this area’s future being rewritten into yet another tale of serial displacement of BIPOC neighbors. I would hate to see Charlotte East’s incredible tapestry of diversity be whitewashed right out with the arrival of a retail chain known for its expensive prices. 

Not only does Target not fit the vibe, there is simply no need for one here. Sure, I love my Universal Thread jeans and Archer Farms trail mix as much as the next WASP millennial mom, but we’re already at max Target saturation on the east side; there are two different Targets 10 minutes away in either direction. Beyond that, there are two more located within a 15-minute drive in Matthews and University City. 

So please, give us a swimming pool, give us racquet courts — heck, give us another ice-skating rink! Better yet, give a spot for local small businesses to take root and thrive. But a Target? Well, that definitely misses the mark. 

We’ve waited this long already. Let’s not settle for anything less than a bullseye.

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