Eastland Mall; Charlotte, North Carolina

Eastland Mall blowing sun in Charlotte, NC

Located on the east side of Charlotte, Eastland Mall seems to be going the way of the dodo, at least in its current state.  Opened in 1975, Eastland was, for a time, the biggest and best mall in all of North Carolina, before Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem unseated it in size a short time later.  However, demographic changes, urban sprawl, and the perception of crime have all but sealed Eastland’s fate as a dead mall with an uncertain future. 

As time progressed through the 1970s and 1980s, Eastland Mall reigned with anchor stores Belk, JCPenney, and Ivey’s, and trumped even SouthPark by having an ice skating rink.  In the late 1970s, Richmond-based Miller & Rhoads joined as junior anchor and Sears got on board in 1979.  Through the 1980s Eastland was considered to be on-par or even superceding SouthPark in terms of size and store selection. 

In 1991, the winds of change brought Carolina Place Mall to south-suburban Pineville, indicative of a retail shift from the core of Charlotte to the periphery.  Around the same time, SouthPark management began to upscale the mall’s offerings, adding Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom in the process.  The addition of Carolina Place meant that the competition for ‘top dog’ in the market would be fought between it and SouthPark, with Eastland left a distant third.

Eastland Mall Dillard's and ice rink in Charlotte, NC

Eastland didn’t go down without a fight though.  Around the same time Carolina Place opened and SouthPark upscaled, Eastland went through a massive makeover, updating its 1970s look to a more “modern” early-90s feel with muted, cerulean pastel tones, which actually look somewhat dated by the standards of 2008. 

Even with the upgrades, the inevitable outcome of being a distant third place didn’t bode well for Eastland.  Built with the intention and veracity of being number one in 1975, being third by the late 1990s created an odd juxtaposition between the large, super-regional mall and the notable vacancies within it.  The retail outcome of this decline included the loss of anchors, beginning with JCPenney in 2002.  After a few years of being an ominous (read: Closing Soon) JCPenney Outlet Store, the space was broken up into Burlington Coat Factory and Fred’s Discount Store.  Next came Dillard’s, who packed up the normal wares and converted to an outlet location in 2005, sealing off their lower level.  Then, in February 2007 came the worst blow to the mall as Belk departed, leaving only Sears as the last traditional anchor to the mall.  In addition to the anchor woes, the retail spectrum in the mall’s corridors has fared no better, as Limited Brands closed all five of their Eastland stores.  Other recent departures included Harris Teeter, Chik-fil-A, Things Remembered, American Eagle, and Spencer’s.

Eastland Mall Belk in Charlotte, NCAnother important factor in the decline of Eastland is the perception of crime.  However, unlike some situations when a mall merely changes demographics, (from mostly white shoppers to a mixed or predominantly black shopper base) the perception of crime is not without basis in fact here.  Several shootings, none of them fatal, have occurred in or around the mall in recent years.  This has certainly kept even loyal and neighborhood customers at bay, causing them to drive across town to other malls.

In addition to all of this, the physical condition of Eastland is deteriorating rapidly, so much so that Glimcher, the mall’s current owner, has deemed the mall a “fixer-upper” and Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory was quoted in 2007 as saying “We built crap. We built pure crap. I call it corridors of crap…and we’re paying for it now” referring to Eastland and the struggling, semi-abandoned strip malls near it.

Despite the downward spiral into oblivion, it seems some astute community leaders and business owners are committed to redeveloping the site for a sustainable future.  The movie theatre, which closed in 1996, was reopened in 2007.  Also, In March 2007, the Urban Land Institute Advisory Council of Washington shared its findings in a comprehensive report about Eastland, ultimately suggesting the mall be torn down and a mixed-use center be put in its place.  Their full report, which is an interesting read for those of us interested in how outdated retail architecture can be successfully repurposed, outlines a number of solutions and explains why a retail-only site would not work for the future.

But why did this all happen?  In order to put together an accurate picture of Charlotte’s retail history, one has to analyze how growth materialized over the past several decades in the area.  When Eastland Mall opened in 1975, a few miles east of downtown, it was extremely well-positioned on the frontier of what would become Charlotte’s largest expanse of sprawl, mostly to the east and southeast of downtown.  However, as the built environment sprawled farther out, so too did the demographic base, including upper-middle class and upper class families who drive the machine of retail location.  As such, new convenience strips of big box and even newer malls, such as Carolina Place, Northlake Mall, (which opened in 2005) and the expansion and upscale positioning of off-freeway center SouthPark Mall took over the limelight from aging regional centers such as Freedom Mall and Eastland Mall.  This, combined with the perception of crime at the center, has even kept those who live nearby away, and the mall has become an open wound, bleeding anchors and in-line retailers alike.

We visited Eastland Mall in September 2005 and took the pictures featured here.  We can’t help but wonder what winds of change the blowing sun, Eastland Mall’s logo, will usher in for the future.

Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC

Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC eastland-mall-06.jpg Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC

Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall Belk in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC

Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC

62 thoughts on “Eastland Mall; Charlotte, North Carolina”

  1. I’ve heard alot about this mall so it’s great to see you guys do an entry on it. I honestly don’t see how this mall looks like “crap”, sure the decor is dated but it’s not like floor tiles are falling out or leaks in the roof right? The crime however is a different story, shootings in the mall are never a good thing (just look at the shooting of that mall in Omaha) so I think that killed this mall faster than urban sprawl. Oh well.

    BTW, what kind of name is “Foot Fettish” for a store?

  2. Brr…a dated mall, a creepy logo, bizarre stores (Foot Fetish/Foot Fettish DOES sound appalling), but hey, it does have an ice rink! Given how appalling the Mall of Memphis demolition was, maybe they could somehow convert this into an entertainment/recreation center if it bites the dust.

  3. Yeah, there’s no way this one is sticking around for long. It sounds like it even went way downhill since I visited 2 some odd years ago.

    Even though I like to discourage mall demolitions, I kinda have to agree with the ULI on this one – it needs to go. There’s no way it can succeed with the demographics, existing retail, and image it has for itself already.

    I just wish someone somewhere would realize that some enclosed malls are possibly worth preserving for historicity’s sake and nothing else?

  4. So the “Foot Fettish” store is a little more interesting than I thought. Not only do they have a website (http://footfetishnc.com/contact.htm), but they have two locations AND spell their store’s name differently on the website versus on the sign in the mall. Hmmm…

  5. What is it with Southern malls and ice rinks? This one, Mall of Memphis, Lake Forest Plaza , the Galleria in Dallas (still alive) all had icr rinks. Malls in Chicago or Minnesota NEVER have ice rinks in them. Must be some weird Americana culture thing.

  6. The ice rink is closed- it’s coveredin some brownish sand now. The Belk is also long-gone. The inside of the mall doesn’t look that bad but the outside looks totally ghetto- peeling paint, that horrid sun logo, signs falling down, etc.- not shown by the pictures. Plus there is a vacant, falling-down gas station with weeds and stuff all over it, which blocks the view of the mall from one its main entrances at Sharon Amity & Central.

  7. Also- of the stores in the pictures- Whitehall Jewelers (now a mom & pop jeweler- New York Jewelers, I think?), Things Remembered, After Hours, Belk and others are long gone, and as the article says, the Dillard’s is now open only on its upper level- the bottom level is walled off.

  8. chip malls in the mid west diid have ice rinks and some still do woodfield had one in the lord and taylor wing when it was there you could eat at johns garage and watch them scate. also in milwaukee the mayfair mall had a large rink in the middle it was pot in during the first renavaton of the mall in the 70s and removed during the scond renivatib in the 80s . and jut as a side note there is a rink at gurnee mills though it is not run by the mall but by a third prty and functions like a ancor store

  9. I’m a big fan of mid-century architecture, but I can’t imagine preserving a generic place like this. The VIctor Gruen classics, well-designed malls that fell on hard times, but not places like this or the usual generic junk built by DeBartolo and the majority of mall developers. The mayor of Charlotte is surprisingly candid about “corridors of crap” but he’s also safely talking about happened on a predecessor’s watch. Still, the Sunbelt, in particular is filled with places like this. Atlanta is practically the capital of dead and dying malls despite years of prosperity. In places like this, the only reason to preserve these malls would be as monuments to unsustainable, non-adaptive patterns of development.

  10. The “Foot Fettish” stores aren’t quite as freaky as they sound, though they’re pretty narrowly focused on high heel pumps and boots. There’s one at this mall and in Greensboro.

    I’ve watched this mall fade into obscurity for at least the last five years. My site has any number of pictures of the place from birth to its twilight years.


    It’s the classic shifting demographics story…but what’s odd about this mall is that the place went form healthy to dead in something like three years tops. I have never seen a mall eat its own lunch so fast. It’s very bizzare, and I’m afraid to say Eastland’s a goner.

  11. Harris Teeter was on an outparcel. There was no physical connection to the main mall building.

  12. I went to Eastland in the early ’90s and it was fine- by 2005, it was still pretty much fully-leased, but was totally ghetto by then (run down, with enough ghetto stores to make it a mall that middle-income people would avoid like the plague)- only in 2008, with Belk’s closing, has it really been afflicted with a high number of vacancies; all of the Limited stores closed nad haven’t been replaced, NY & Co. closed, the Hallmark store closed, etc., all since January 2008. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  13. I’ve seen photos of malls with ice rinks before, but never as the bottom level. Wow. I can’t stop myself from thinking, “The Whalers left Hartford for this?!”

    I like the “Man of Fashion”. Sounds like a cheesy B-movie.

  14. Also- SouthPark has a Neiman Marcus, NOT a Saks, sadly enough.

    The Foot Fet(t)ish store has no connection to Foot Locker as far as I know; there is a Foot Locker in the mall in the upper level near Burlington Coat Factory, in the ghetto-est part of the mall.

  15. Well, by the same font, I was suggesting a possibility that it was a former Foot Locker shell.

    What an idiot I was.

  16. Certainly normal to think that the Foot Fet(t)ish store would be a former Foot Locker. There is a former GAP store upstairs that is basically a GAP store (with “urban” clothes) and the full shell of the store intact, with just the new store name basically hung up where the GAP sign was.

  17. Eastland was the place to be when I was a student at UNC-Charlotte in the late 70’s. In those days, it was definitely better than SouthPark. Sad to see it’s demise.

  18. Middle image in row 2 doesn’t work.

  19. Don’t knock this mall- the Dillard’s is great- the higher-end stuff from the SouthPark store ends up there; I’ve gotten 90% off Ralph Lauren jackets and more. It’s a retail gold mine.

  20. I was there today, and it’s in much worse shape than in these pictures. The ice rink is gone- replaced by sand. It’s absolutely eerie to walk in the center court and see this dark expanse below (it was already sort of weird seeing it below to begin with.) There was a guy trying to sell his rap CD’s by the entrance.

    This was at one time a nice mall, but its best days are sadly behind it. It feels like Mall of Memphis all over again, and the irony is they both have that same teal color scheme. The food court is still doing a strong business.

  21. Too bad to hear Eastland is going downhill really fast. Interesting to see that Sears never replaced their 1970s logo on their exterior, and that the ice rink is now covered over with sand(wth, of all things!)

    It seems like from all the comments and reports on this mall’s condition, I’d give this mall no more than 2 years, tops, to shutter for good, or at least be mostly sealed. Whoever mentioned the condition of this mall to be in a similar shape to the former Mall of Memphis is unfortunately right(as IIRC, Mall of Memphis thankfully had the dignity not to close their ice rink up in their final year + days of operation).

  22. The Sears roof sign on the mall common area has not changed since 1979, when it replaced a sign that read “EASTLAND,” but the signs on the Sears store were updated some years ago.

  23. OK, thanks for clarifying me and the rest of us on the status of the Sears signs, Steven. Especially since I didn’t realize that some of the interior signs had already been updated.

  24. SKETCHY!

    Odd that SouthPark isn’t on this site… lived near it for seven years and moved away in 97- imagine my shock when I visited last summer!

    Never thought I would’ve been shopping at Neiman-Marcus at SouthPark back then! Gorgeous mall- the opposite of this mess!

    Eastland is the anti-SouthPark. Sad story. Creepy logo.

  25. I was here last week. The SEARS store seems to be doing great and looks really healthy and in fact inside of the mall most of it looks as if it is leased except the former Belk wing really. Dillard’s is down to it’s last days and it shows as the clearance outlet is about to be closed.

  26. My partner and I went to Eastland in 2004 for the first time. At the time it seemed to be a very thriving minority mall. We returned a year and a half later most likely in 2006 and it was a shell of its former self. Our final trip to Eastland took place upon the closing of the Belk’s, and we were astonished how quickly it had diminished in just a few short years. Granted the first time we went there weren’t loads of national chains represented but the state it was in on our last trip was just pitiful. Although I’m from Burlington and never went to Eastland Mall, as it was just too far away, I feel a certain amount of sadness in seeing its demise. Perhaps because it’s in NC … who knows … or perhaps because it reminds me of Carolina Circle with the ice-rink and Tuesday’s Italian Restaurant.

  27. Went to Eastland Mall in March 1983 with my church group from Sumter,SC during my senior year in high school. The only time I’ve been Ice skating, and I’ve done two tours in Iceland with the Air Force.

  28. Most of the chain stores in the photos are gone- Belk, now Dillard’s, and even Whitehall Jewelers, Things Remembered and Hibbett Sports, the Hallmark store, and more are now gone. The Sears is a “Clearance Center” downstairs. The Belk wing is mostly boarded up.

    Sad, as that part of Charlotte needs a mall (doesn’t everyone?).

  29. Sears is shutting down in June 2009!

  30. I think that the mall needs to die now. Demolish it and rebuild a new enclosed mall across the street…smaller, but with an ice rink.

  31. Sorry, I hadn’t seen Grocerying’s post about the Sears closing- Grocerying is correct.

    The ice rink is gone too.

  32. I’m in agreement with Blair. I, too, was a student at UNC-Charlote in the late ’70’s. The eastside was the happening place to be in Charlotte. I’ll never forget Christmas shopping at Eastland back then and how crowded the parking lot would be. I even worked at Ivey’s (before Dillards) in the mid-’80’s. It was still pretty nice at that time but, looking back, it was slowly going down. How things change in this city:(

  33. I went to Eastland last weekend. Most of those stores in the pictures are gone- the Foot Fettish (sic) closed, as did the Radio Shack and others.

  34. I find it laughable that the stores on the website refer to the rink as a “soccer rink”. Too little, too late.

  35. My wife and I were trying to kill some time before our flight out of Charlotte. She punched “malls” into our rental’s GPS and randomly chose this mall as the one we’d go to. The mall was in disrepair and clearly dying economically. We took a walk through the mall and I can safely say that there was nothing I would buy.

  36. When I was little, my teenage brother would beg Mom to drive almost an hour for his back-to-school shopping because Eastland was the place for cool clothes. When I was in college (Late 80s) I worked at JCPenney in Eastland and it was still very vibrant, but SouthPark was by then becoming the more upscale and fashionable mall. Now it’s just scary, but it’s not only the mall but all the strips around it. That whole side of town needs reinvestment. The talk of using government funds to build upscale housing on the mall site, thinking that will somehow stimulate the surroundings, scares me though – anybody driven through Citiside lately? Bet you didn’t get out and walk.

  37. Deadmalls.com has posted this mall is closing in March

  38. That mall has been in decline a long time ago, beginning with demographic changes in East Charlotte. Nobody dared to say that there were a rash of serial murders in East Charlotte back in the early 1990s. That area was turning working class to low income back then.

    One of the serial killer’s victims was urged by her mother to buy a gun because the neighborhood where she worked was getting dangerous. Hence, seeds of the destruction of Eastland Mall were sown in the early 1990s. Eventually that killer was arrested, confessed to killing 10 women during the two-year period, and was sentenced to death in January 1997.

    From 1994 onwards, Eastland mall’s reputation was tarnished for good. Gangs, problem people, and criminals were taking over, slowly during the 90s but increasingly in this millenium.

  39. So the Eastland Mall link no longer directs to the Eastland Mall Charlotte website, but to the Columbus, Ohio one.

  40. ummm ok stop being dumb maybe people wanna skate because we dont have SNOW all year round! like yah peoples

  41. Went to this mall when it first opened. Nothing was here that SouthPark did not already have, save the ice rink. Never went back. However sad this is, you just have to look to Charlottetown Mall to see that they don’t last forever. Now that was a cool place!

  42. April 19, 2010 Eastland Mall is being foreclosed. All tennants have to be out by June 30, 2010! Loved the mall as a kid, it has changed for the worse. I deffinately would not go in this mall anymore. Sad to see it go. I might ride through the parking lot for old times sake one more time.

  43. @Jeremy Sing, I guess Eastland’s days are numbered, hopefully they can find better use for that site.

  44. @Chip,
    It makes perfect sense–in Chicago and Northern parts, you don’t NEED to go to the mall to ice-skate. In the South, it is almost unheard-of for lakes and ponds to freeze over, so where is anyone going to skate if not at a rink (still not common in most places) or a mall?

  45. In my opinion, the ice rink was the cause of all shooting incidents (I was young once and the rink is a perfect place where gangs and thugs gather). It might be one of the critical factor of the mall downfall.

  46. Almost 4 years later… It still doesn’t work.


  48. @Live There,

    The sad thing, though, is that they STILL haven’t DONE anything with it!

  49. @Cale, Yea, it’s bigger that the Civic Center Mall! (RIP 2004) where the Whalers played. GO Carolina Whalers!!!



  51. I graduated HS in 1986 which meant I frequented the mall from 1983-1986. It was exotic to me with the three levels, escalator suspended over the ice, lots of cool stores, all thriving, and lots of people. Coming from another smaller city, it made me feel like I was living in a cool place. Also, being the mid-80’s, arcade games were huge. And Eastland had a nice arcade. I have lots of fond memories from there. It was where I spent time with my good friends, and where I had my last outing with my high school girlfriend. Just looking at pictures of it on this website floods me with sentimental nostalgia. I visited the mall shortly before they started to tear it down and the memories were too much. Overload!

  52. I used to go there about once a week for a couple of years in the early ’90s. It wasn’t as good as Southpark even then, but it was my favorite mall.

    The place has been razed to the ground with an empty parking lot that remains. A small part of the lot is used for a small flea market on weekends. It’s a great place to teach someone how to drive.

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