City and business leaders joined east side community members Wednesday morning to break ground on the highly anticipated Eastland redevelopment project.
The long-awaited ceremonial event was filled with the smell of local pastries, a cheering crowd, lots of reminiscing and plenty of questions.
Why it matters: Breaking ground on Eastland is the first milestone for a project that still has a long way to go, but it’s a sign that progress and opportunities for economic growth are taking shape.
What they’re saying: Tracy Dodson, assistant city manager and economic development director, kicked off the groundbreaking with an anecdote about working for the city three different times. Every single time, she worked on Eastland.
Here are five things to know about the project.
1. Call it Eastland Yards
That’s the project’s name, and it includes a new logo. Copyright issues prevented the project from using the original Eastland Mall sun logo.
2. Phase one is scheduled to run through 2024
It will include:
- 155 homes; a mix of townhomes and single-family units
- 70-120 affordable units for senior citizens
- 280 multifamily units
- 17,500 square feet of office and retail space
- Open space
- Street, stormwater, water, sewer and right-of-way infrastructure improvements
3. Three phases
That’s the total number of phases planned for the project. Future phases will include another 145,000 square feet of office and retail space. A grocery store and health care component are also part of the plan.
4. The 20-acre intrigue
The project broke ground without Tepper Sports and Entertainment, and as we originally reported, TSE has no plans for a Charlotte FC presence at Eastland at this time.
Context: TSE was originally proposed as an anchor tenant for the project, first with the team’s headquarters and practice facility planned for Eastland, which was later replaced with plans for the team’s academy headquarters there. Both were intended to occupy 20 acres of the 80-acre site the city had earmarked for a sports or recreation component.
The big picture: Tim Sittema, managing partner at the project’s master developer Crosland Southeast, said the development “is not dependent on [TSE’s] participation.” This statement was met with cheers and applause from the crowd.
- District 6 council member Tariq Bokhari would go on to thank David Tepper during the groundbreaking.
What’s next: Sittema said there are three prospective parties interested in the site, but he declined to share who they are or a timeline for selection.
- Dodson told Axios she would like to see a seamless process for building roads on that side of site, which they will hold off on until they identify their future partner on this portion of the project.
- She said it will be roughly 12 months to select the project partner on that side and bring this portion back to city council.
5. Don’t expect the Central Flea Market (CFM) to go on the 20-acre side
Hector Vaca, a CFM organizer and east side resident, held a sign throughout the groundbreaking reading “Let CFM COME HOME!”
- When at-large council member Dimple Ajmera recognized the flea market members during her remarks, Vaca shouted from the back, “let them into that location. It’s fair. Let them come home.”
- Ajmera said city council is committed to finding a “sustainable solution” for the vendors, because they “deserve the same level of respect and support as large businesses do.”
Context: The development also displaced a skate park that operated on the site, as well as the local flea market of more than 200 vendors. Flea market vendors were left without a space to operate after their lease expired, as Axios’ Laura Barrero reported.
Yes, but: The 20-acre side seems like a logical alternative, because plans for it are up in the air and the vendors need a space to operate. That piece of the project, however, is intended for sports and recreation. When I asked Sittema about this, he compared the mixed-use project to a “complex recipe,” saying “you can’t just throw anything into the pot and cook something that’s going to be great to eat.”
- “We’re looking for a sports recreation use which is what the community had initially expressed loud and clear to us that they wanted,” Sittema said. “And we also need to consider the other aspects of the development in terms of bringing people here and contributing to the success of the other merchants and businesses that are going to be here. All of those factors have to be considered.”
- He added they cannot allocate a portion of the 20 acres to the flea market right now, because some potential partners want to use more than 20 acres.
What’s next: Vaca told Axios the vendors are working with the city on finding a possible location, particularly at Eastland Yards. He added the vendors are interested in the possible location (1720 Galleria Blvd.) proposed by Bokhari, but that they haven’t agreed on the location yet.
- The vendors will look at the location this week and will meet next week to decide on the space.