Jul 20, 2022 - Development

Scoop: Eastland redevelopment will move forward without Tepper Sports and Entertainment

Rendering courtesy of Crosland Southeast

The Eastland Mall redevelopment will begin without Tepper Sports and Entertainment.

Driving the news: The long-awaited project will break ground on Aug. 3, but it’ll be without TSE, which has been part of the Eastland Mall redevelopment plans since Major League Soccer awarded billionaire David Tepper a franchise in December 2019.

There are no plans for TSE to have fields for Charlotte FC at Eastland at this time, but they’re “open to discussing opportunities,” per TSE spokesperson Bruce Speight.

  • “It’s not like a breakup by any means,” Tracy Dodson, assistant city manager and economic development director, told Axios. She added the city continues to engage with TSE on all things that TSE does in Charlotte and they “still look forward to a strong partnership.”

What they’re saying: “After a great deal of consideration, the timeline for the Eastland project posed challenges that led us to research expedited alternatives,” Speight told Axios in a statement. “We continue to work towards a practice facility for Charlotte FC’s first team, the club’s academy and its MLS Next Pro team and will provide updates as our plans are finalized. We continue to have discussions with the City of Charlotte as we work towards driving economic engagement through sports and live entertainment.” 

  • At-large Charlotte city council member Dimple Ajmera also declined to comment on the “ongoing” matter. District 5 council member Matt Newton, who represents the area, said he doesn’t have a “public comment at this time.”

State of play: The three major players in the project heading into 2022 were the city of Charlotte, Crosland Southeast and TSE.

  • The city owns the land. Crosland is the master developer. TSE would oversee the development of roughly 20 acres for Charlotte FC academy fields and facilities.
  • Dodson said, however, there are several other partners involved as well, including Mecklenburg County, which will contribute to the construction of a park on the site.

Tim Sittema, managing partner at Crosland Southeast, confirmed to Axios that TSE will not be part of their development plans moving forward.

  • “While we are disappointed, we are not surprised with their decision and our plans are not dependent on TSA’s commitment. Although ideally a decision would have been made much sooner, we are now able to finally begin our construction phase with the clarity we have been awaiting,” Sittema said in a statement to Axios.
  • Expecting TSE’s decision “at some point,” he added Crosland Southeast began marketing their portion of the site months ago. They’re already encouraged by the amount of interest in it, per Sittema. “We hope to be able to announce our updated plans very soon.”

Why it matters: This is the second significant development deal involving TSE to encounter hurdles in the past few months. TSE stopped work on the Carolina Panthers’ $800 million headquarters in Rock Hill, filed bankruptcy to end the project and is now facing lawsuits  from local governments and contracted companies.

  • Plus, discussions about the future of Bank of America Stadium, among the oldest stadiums in the NFL, are ongoing between the city and TSE. Tepper has indicated he’d seek public funding for it.
Dave Tepper. Photo: Andy Webber/Axios

Zoom out: The former Eastland Mall site, which is owned by the city, has been seen as a source of potential economic development for east Charlotte since the mall closed more than a decade ago. But residents have also been concerned that a major mixed-used development would lead to gentrification.

  • A local flea market of more than 200 vendors were left without a space to operate after their lease for the site expired, as Axios’ Laura Barrero reported.
  • The Eastland development also displaced a skate park on the site.

Context: TSE originally pitched Eastland to city leaders as its Major League Soccer headquarters leading up to the city receiving a franchise. TSE changed course in late 2020, opting instead to keep their MLS HQ at Bank of America Stadium, while making Eastland the team’s academy headquarters.

The intrigue: While TSE has followed through on promises to bring more events to Bank of America Stadium, from concerts to another major league sports franchise (Bank of America Stadium hosted 15 events in 2018 when Tepper bought the team; they’re set to host 39 events in 2022), projects like Rock Hill and Eastland call into question TSE’s commitment to communities they promised to do business in.

Yes, but: Unlike the Rock Hill project, Eastland isn’t dependent on TSE, whose portion is roughly 20 acres of the 80-acre site.

By the numbers: The city originally set aside $110 million in hospitality funds to bring MLS to Charlotte. The money was tagged for the team’s headquarters at Eastland, Bank of America Stadium improvements and developing a district around the stadium.

  • That initial 2019 figure, however, dropped to $35 million amid the pandemic. These are still hospitality funds, but Dodson said those funds have not been touched.
  • In November 2020, city council also approved two buckets of funding to develop the other side of the project: $17.25 million, which will be reimbursed from the Capital Investment Plan and $11 million worth of tax reimbursements. 
  • Both required request for council action, also known as RCA. Should TSE’s presence at Eastland shift, it would likely require another RCA before dollars could be spent, because the current RCA includes Charlotte FC’s academy headquarters at Eastland. And a new city council will be elected on July 26.

Of note: The city unanimously approved transferring 57.5 acres on site to Crosland on May 31, giving Crosland the power to develop their side of the project. 

The big picture: If TSE’s side falls through, Sittema said there are still lots of opportunities. He declined to specify what those may be, however.

  • Dodson told Axios using this part of the site for recreation that attracts not only area residents, but people from all around Charlotte, too, has long been part of the goal.
  • She said that’s why they purchased additional land in 2020, taking it from just under a 70-acre site to close to a roughly 80-acre site.

What’s next: Dodson said the city wants Crosland to get started on implementing infrastructure as quickly as possible, given the Eastland project has been years in the making, and the amount of time the project will take. There will be 18 months of site work and infrastructure, including utilities and other underground work. Construction is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2023. Phase one is expected to take 36 months.

  • Plans for the recreation component and TSE’s involvement may shift, but the vision for open, recreation area remains the same.
  • “We’ll look at how things might shift from plans that we’ve had, but essentially the vision stays around recreation,” Dodson said.

Editor’s note: We updated this story with a new statement from Crosland Southeast.

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