Will the central flea market be on the Charlotte Eastland Mall site?
Vendors moved from the central flea market to the former Eastland Mall property make their presentation to be part of the site’s redevelopment in light of news that Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC owner David Tepper will not include not a youth academy and football pitches in the project.
But ahead of a grand opening in Eastland scheduled for Wednesday by developer Crosland Southeast, Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Bokhari said he was once again working on a plan that would move the flea market to another location.
Fruit vendor Jorge Castaneda told the Charlotte Observer on Tuesday night that he was ready to move but would “absolutely” prefer to return to the Eastland Mall site from which he and other vendors were evicted ago months.
“Some still go [to the Eastland Mall site] and is looking for us,” Castaneda said. “It really depends on the location.”
Eastland Flea Market Evicted
Bokhari says sellers could have a “new home” within the next two weekends.
In February, the vendors – known to sell exotic products and other items – were told by City of Charlotte staff to vacate the property “immediately” and not return.
The orders came months after the city ended its rental agreement with the market operator last fall, thereby preventing vendors from selling on the site, the Observer previously reported. At the time, the developer of the city-owned 80-acre site planned to begin construction on a $175 million mixed-use development. Construction is now expected to begin on Wednesday.
In a statement released Tuesday by Action NC, which pleaded for assistance and support from the flea market, representatives raised doubts that the redevelopment will be inclusive, given that it has already moved businesses from locally owned and operated market. Amid the ‘Envision Eastland’ plan – the branding of the redevelopment – the statement says local market vendors are demanding to ‘come home’ to the one place they have regularly set up shop in the last decade.
“There is still a promise of cultural diversity and economic development for working communities of color. The reality is always the same; our communities are being left out or sidelined as decisions are made and carried out by privileged decision makers and communities,” the statement read.
After the market closed, a number of vendors contacted the city for help.
Last month, Bokhari found a temporary location and invited vendors to attend for free. The market was in a series of parking lots between 6th and 9th streets and between Brevard and Caldwell streets, the Observer previously reported.
Although Bokhari said the space could accommodate up to 150 vendors, many did not show up due to their lack of “input and agreement”, WCNC reported.
Now, Bokhari says he’s found another option, but it’s unclear how much turnout he got from the original vendors at the central flea market. He says he is reviewing the location with some relocated vendors to “ensure any potential issues are resolved.”
The potential location is private land in east Charlotte near Matthews, Bokhari said in a news release Tuesday. The new market at 1720 Galleria Blvd. would be open Saturdays and Sundays at 9 a.m., but doors will open to vendors at 7 a.m., according to the statement.
“We heard the cries for help when vendors had to return to the council for the second time,” Bokhari said in the statement. “They needed enough space to operate their business, the ability to start work as soon as possible, and a location with longer-term operating opportunities.”
Bokhari says the 11-acre space, which is mostly paved, exceeds the 5 acres originally requested by the sellers. It is located between Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road and has free parking for guests. He proposes that the market hire a professional management company to manage day-to-day needs and use the revenue from sellers’ fees to purchase land in the future.
And Tepper’s space?
Castaneda said he worked at the Eastland Mall site for eight years before being moved, so it would be more difficult for him and customers to get used to a new site.
“You’re going to go back to a place where you make money and know you’ll be successful,” he said. “We want to go back to where we knew we could be successful and where we knew our customers could easily find us.”
One idea he and other sellers want to come up with is that they take over acres that were going to be used for the football academy and grounds. Tepper decided to pull out of the Eastland Mall project last month after it “posed challenges that led us to seek accelerated alternatives”, according to a statement from TSE.
“We’re working on something long term,” Castaneda said.
Castaneda and other vendors are planning a proposal to present to the city in the near future, he said.
This story was originally published August 2, 2022 6:48 p.m.