When the mall opened in 1975, it was a first for the city. It was the first to have four anchors, the first with two levels and the first to have its own indoor ice skating rink. Luring in Charlotte's own Belk and Ivey's, the mall was also joined by JCPenney and junior anchor Miller and Rhoads. In 1979, Sears would also join the mall on the back side. With so much to offer, the mall was an instant hit. In fact, it was so popular that it even surpassed South Park Mall for nearly two decades. The mall, however, was in a strange place. Like South Park, it was situated far away from major interstates. Just that alone would have made the mall easy to replace, but the city grew relatively slowly up until the 1990's and none of the malls located near freeways offered anything comparable.
Belk here closed in 2006. No store in the mall had a more dated mall entrance and exterior, but it was dated in a good way...I really liked both. The first photo is of the road sign, which thanks the hoards of area residents who frequented the mall over the years.
JCPenney, however, wrote the book on bland. This last operated as Burlington Coat Factory, which closed early in the year.
A look at the mall outside of Belk.
Part of the mall on the JCPenney wing.
Looking from JCPenney court. An old Foot Locker is on the right.
Eastland Mall was a typical swanky 70's mall with fountains and trees in the smaller courts in addition to the memorable center court. Eventually, a couple renovations stripped much of that away exposing the inadequacies of an otherwise pretty basic two-level mall. The first renovation around 1989, however, would bring in updated fountains and a new food court. The mall also saw two anchor changes in that period. The first was due to Ivey's being bought out by Dillard's in 1990. Miller and Rhoads would also depart later in the 1990's, converting to regular mall space. However, the mall at that point also competed only with similarly remote South Park and Carolina Place Malls, which helped the mall maintain a competitive edge by being the most convenient mall in the city . Even then, half the anchor stores at Eastland overlapped with South Park: both had Belk and Dillard's. This would all change in 2005 with the opening of Northlake Mall, which I believe had as much of an effect in Eastland's failure as the neighborhood around it.
Northeast entrance wing from the upper level near JCPenney. The same closed Foot Locker is on the right. Miller & Rhoads used to be on the left.
In the same wing as above, what was this store? I am told this was Morrison's Cafeteria.
Sad. This is on the same entrance wing as above.
Skylight detail in the adjacent court. This was only possible due to the big thunderstorm that erupted while I was in here.
Whether anybody realizes it, probably the reason the mall lasted as long as it did was due to a rather limited selection of malls and even anchors such as Sears or JCPenney for a fast growing city. Before Eastland Mall, the previous community type malls typically had one local department store often with a discounter such as Woolco as the other anchor. It was hardly a proper shopping experience, and much of that was fueled by the tremendous influence of the Belk and Ivey families. Charlotte's first mall was not even enough to lure either one: it was originally anchored by Bon Marche from Asheville. While malls like Eastland eventually killed those centers, a better shopping experience was strongly desired, and Eastland provided that.
View from second level of center court with Dillard's/Ivey's in the background. The "Ice Capades" are now an indoor soccer field, and the blue looks very garish next to the rest of the court.
Almost the same angle from 1989 with Ivey's in the background. Photo by Pat Richardson.
Looking toward Sears in the center court with a better view of the skylights.
Detail of the skylights. This is definitely an older style. One of the nation's oldest malls has this, and another mall in Charlotte also used this style. I like it, though.
The sun finally pops out here as I cover an angle with the east wing on the right.
Northlake pulled shoppers away from the mall right away when the new mall opened in 2006. Not only was it in a better area, but it offered a far more attractive shopping experience with far less of a crime risk involved. Other developments such as the stalled Bridges at Mint Hill also threatened the mall, but Northlake was the only one to actually materialize. Northlake also has the advantage of direct interstate access, which Eastland never had. The writing was on the wall and the changes came fast. The first sign of trouble came in the 1990's, though, when the theaters in the mall shuttered in 1996. Glimcher Realty bought the mall in 1998, but seemed to take no interest in the property. By 1999, JCPenney converted their full-line store into an outlet. Trouble was in the air as the area was declining with rents dropping on nearby apartments with the bad element settling in. Even worse, no real investment had been made in the mall since it was built. In fact, it appears the last renovation was done in 1989 with no other changes since it was built aside from removal of the fountains. Not only were no anchors added, but on the outside the mall pretty much looked the same as the day it opened.
A nice shot of both levels from a smaller court area. I believe that is the former Belk in the background.
On the lower level is a northwest entrance wing. On the right is the entrance to the food court. I have a closer shot, but it did not come out as well. Was this where the theater used to be?
One of two shots of the food court area.
More of the food court. The main mall is on the left.
1989 photo of the food court from Pat Richardson. Note the stairs on the right down to the ice skating rink.
By 2002, the biggest sign of trouble happened when the JCPenney Outlet closed. Burlington Coat Factory, which is typically a death sentence for most malls, took over the spot by 2005, but it too would not last. This gave Belk and Dillard's a chance to get out of their own leases since the mall had allowed a non-traditional anchor in a department store space. Belk closed their store in 2006, helped along by the opening of the store at Northlake just prior. Dillard's also converted their store to an outlet. That same year, the signature ice rink would close, though it appears to have since been used for indoor soccer since then. The interior of the mall was also in decline as much of the big name tenants including stores like American Eagle and Hollister opted out. Seeing the writing on the wall, Charlotte was interested in buying the mall and tearing it down, but apparently the city has made no action on doing so.
Looking northwest here with the food court entrance in the middle and the main mall on the left.
Approximate photo with one of the big chandaliers. WHY did these have to go?
Vacant Sears is in the background from this angle.
Sears is in the background here, too...21 years ago. Photo by Pat Richardson.
Over the next couple years, the mall would go from bad to worse. Dillard's closed it store in late 2008, Sears departed in June 2009 and the mall's last anchor, Burlington Coat Factory, closed this year. Anchorless and hopeless, Glimcher found it was unable to sell the giant rock in the middle of a run down area, so it decided instead to let the entire mall be foreclosed on. On my visit, the remaining tenants were packing out and the air conditioner was shut off making a visit to the mall highly uncomfortable. The owners made no secret the game was over. This is why the mall will be closing down next Wednesday ending a once much happier chapter in Charlotte history.
Former Champs's Sporting Goods
What was this?
An old Athlete's Foot.
A view from the second level shows these crossbeams with plants on top. It would be bad news if someone knocks one of those over with someone below.
With the mall dead, interest in the center still exists. A Houston-based company known as Boxer Realty wants to buy the center converting it into a mixed-use site catering to the multicultural aspects of the neighborhood. Boxer currently runs a place known as Plaza Fiesta Carolinas. With this, it seems possible that the mall could become something akin to the wildly popular Plaza Fiesta Mall in Atlanta...except this would be a much larger project. I had actually suggested such a project on an earlier post for fading Asian Corner/Tryon Mall. Boxer's plans, however, are modeled after a dead mall they revived in Fort Worth, TX into a Hispanic-themed center. The company is citing its success in reviving Fort Worth Town Center into La Gran Plaza as to why they could do the same for Eastland. Hopefully, this is genuine so that this mall does not become for the consolidated city of Charlotte/Mecklenburg County another enormous rotting corpse of a mall like Regency Mall became for consolidated Augusta/Richmond County, GA.
An original court area under reconstruction in 1989. It looks naked without those trees today. Photo by Pat Richardson.
An earlier view of probably the same court from 1980. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Photo by Pat Richardson.
I sure miss the shops with the Bavarian themes. Photo by Pat Richardson from 1989.
Inside Lerner Shops. Photo by Pat Richardson from 1989.
Inside Radio Shack. Photo by Pat Richardson from 1989.
While I am hardly the first to cover it, I am glad to be able to post on Eastland Mall showing you some of my photos combined with photos of the mall at various times in its history from Pat Richardson. Many, many people are sad about this mall departing as it was once the premier shopping destination for Charlotte. 35 years is not really long enough for a mall of this size to go from boom to bust. It reminds me of so many malls from my childhood including a few that have gone away, so I fully understand this must be hard for many people to see how a place of their youth has come to this. It looks as though Eastland could find new life, but never again as the way that people remember it. However, many have come along over the years capturing photos of it in its various points in history, so unlike many other malls it will be remembered well with images preserved for years to come.