Curtains for Eastland

It looks like the end for Eastland Mall in Charlotte as it loses one of its two remaining credible anchors. It’s sad, really, but I saw it coming twenty years ago when I managed a surf and skate shop across the street from the place. I’m actually pretty surprised that its taken so long for it to get to this point.

I guess when you’ve worked in a dying mall, you recognize the signs earlier when another one starts to go south. Back in 1986, after only eleven years in operation, the lustre was already fading at Eastland. The more upscale Southpark, a few miles away, had stolen all the “buzz” with a remodel and a generally more impressive array of stores. Eastland never recovered; it was still healthy, but no one seemed very excited about it. It was just sort of a utilitarian place that was starting to feel just a little bit tired, not unlike the entire neighborhood surrounding it.

By 2005, when I moved back to Charlotte for a year, the mall and the neighborhood had pretty much had it. It’s an unfortunate truth in the United States that as an area’s complexion becomes increasingly brown, capital tends to start fleeing to other areas. Regardless of whether this flight is due to racism or economic reality, the disinvestment eventually becomes emotional as well as financial, and the area begins a slow, steady decline into urban decay. East Charlotte is well into that slide now. It was inevitable even before the gunshots and gang violence started that the mall would be an early casualty.

It’ll take a year or two before it all comes to an end. The really ugly period, though, will be about five years from now, when Eastland is a big, vacant, rotting carcass whose stench has befouled the entire neighborhood surrounding it. This will be the period just before it’s either torn down and replaced by a Wal-Mart, or perhaps taken over by some government entity.

It’s too bad. Eastland had a good, thirty-plus year run. That’s more than Carolina Circle got.