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               EASTLAND MALL: CHARLOTTE, NC

Chris Edwards' Commentary

Posted December 13, 2005 (user submitted)

Eastland Mall is a suffering 1970s mall whose tale is one of what can happen to a popular mall located in a declining neighborhood.

Eastland opened in Charlotte's eastern suburbs as the area was becoming a middle-class Mecca. Anchored by Belk, Ivey's (which was later bought by Dillard's) and JC Penney, the mall's initial popularity was increased by the addition of Sears a few years after its opening. As middle-income suburbs around the mall expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, the mall thrived, helped by fun attractions such as an ice rink at the mall's center court. As late as the early 1990s, the mall appeared to be a typical mid-market, healthy mall.

Eastland's middle-income neighbors continued moving out towards Charlotte's expanding suburbs and headed towards south Charlotte as their incomes climbed. Until recently, Eastland appeared to have weathered its neighborhood's demographic changes well. Rather than becoming a dead mall, the mall attracted locally-owned stores and moderately-priced chains to appeal to its moderate-income constituency. Even recently, the mall has continued to attract stores.

Its JC Penney anchor became an outlet and then closed but was replaced with a classic dead mall anchor, Burlington Coat Factory, and Fred's, a regional discount chain similar to Family Dollar or Big Lots. The mall's in-line tenants have changed from largely mid-market chains such as the Gap to Harold Pener Man of Fashion, locally-owned stores such as ?Classic Stylez? and other urban-type stores, and some chains in the mall's food court have closed, replaced by locally-owned Mexican fast-food joints and the like.

Eastland's fate is currently uncertain; the mall is threatened by increased competition from new malls, such as Concord Mills and Northlake Mall to its north, as well as a proposed mall to its east. Perhaps sensing that Eastland's days are numbered, owner Glimcher has put the mall up for sale. Unfortunately increased competition and possible ownership changes have been accompanied by rising crime. Fights and shootings inside and outside the mall in November 2005 were splashed across the pages of local newspapers, further contributing to the mall's dangerous image in the minds of some potential shoppers. Also, a mall needs anchors, and rumors that Belk and Dillard's are considering departing for a proposed mall in Charlotte's eastern suburbs only complicate the mall's cloudy future.

Charlotte residents whose tastes are not satisfied by other malls such as SouthPark, currently in the process of adding a Neiman Marcus anchor, need somewhere to shop. As long as Eastland erases its crime-ridden image, hopefully its transformation from a middle-America mall to a multi-cultural, urban-style retail destination will be successful. Surely other local malls such as Northlake and Carolina Place are eyeing Eastland, as the neighborhood changes that have caused Eastland's problems could hit them as well.

Update

Posted June 3, 2006

Eastland is continuing its death spiral, this time with its anchors:

  1. Dillard's has been converted into a clearance center. The store's lower level has been closed, with the ground floor mall entrance sealed off and the escalators from the upper level blocked with boards and wooden boxes. The store is now open from only 11AM until 7PM.
  2. Belk has closed off part of its lower level with wallboard.
  3. Harris-Teeter, in the mall's parking lot, is closing in June 2006. Apparently negotiations are underway with another grocery store. We'll see what comes in the space- either a low-end grocery store or maybe a dollar store.
  4. The vacant Hannaford grocery store at the opposite end of the mall, near the Burlington Coat Factory/Fred's/Prime Time, which all fill a former JC Penney space, is in being converted into a flea market.
And to think that Eastland was once as nice as SouthPark, which is adding a Neiman Marcus, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, BCBG, etc.

Charlie Lontz' Commentary

Posted December 2, 2006 (user submitted)

Eastland Mall is located in the northern extremities of the buffer between the more affluent southeastern corner of Charlotte (Wesley Chapel, Weddington, Ballantyne, etc.) and the lower-income core of Charlotte proper. I grew up in the area between Matthews and Monroe, which places me about 10-20 miles from the mall on US 74. I remember that even as a child (5-10), this mall was considered dangerous.

In Chris Edward's article, he mentions an ice skating rink, which was its only draw for suburban kids like me. In fact, the last time I remember visiting to skate for a birthday party was when I was 6 or so (1989-90).

The last time I visited this mall was just before I graduated high school. I still remember feeling like it was waiting to be closed.

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