by: Jim Bradley Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Plans for a complex of movie studios, homes and businesses in East Charlotte appear dead.
City Council members expressed little confidence Thursday in a proposal by Charlotte-based Studio Charlotte and the developer himself called the deal "on life support."
Bert Hesse said he's now at an impasse with the city, which agreed to negotiate exclusively with Studio Charlotte for a six-month period that expires March 31.
Hesse has said he wants to turn the old Eastland Mall site into a complex of movie sound stages, a magnet school, houses and businesses.
On Thursday, city staffers told council members they have received little of the detailed information about finances and construction costs that are necessary to vet the proposal.
Staff recommended that the city reject a request from Hesse to give him a five-month extension.
After the meeting Hesse was asked if the deal is dead? "I wouldn't say it's dead but it's definitely on life support."
Earlier this week Eyewitness News reported that the project was in trouble as city leaders questioned whether Studio Charlotte could pull off the project.
On Thursday, during a noontime meeting of the City Council's Economic Development Committee Hesse found himself on the hot seat.
Councilwoman Claire Fallon was one of many who said the project is too risky for the city, which was asked to give Studio Charlotte the 80-acre site for $1.
“I'm not inclined to give you any more time," Fallon said. "It's time for this committee and this city to go in another direction and get something started there that will be viable for the public."
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes says he's lost confidence in Studio Charlotte's ability to deliver any part of the project.
"We thought they had put together a package that would be both compelling and feasible. We don't have any indication that any of that stuff is true. I think the Studio Charlotte folks have clearly let the city down," Barnes said.
Hesse insists his dreams for a film studio in the Charlotte area aren't over. "Oh, we have other locations that we've been looking at for months. Some are in Mecklenburg County and some are outside of N.C.," he said.
City Council members will take up the issue again in two weeks, at which time staff members said they'll make recommendations on how to proceed with developing the Eastland site, most likely without Studio Charlotte.
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