East Charlotte community outraged after Tepper backs out of Eastland development

CHARLOTTE — Residents and business owners on the east side of Charlotte were left sidelined after David Tepper’s company confirmed they’ve pulled out of the development project at the old Eastland Mall site.

The development was supposed to be the home to Charlotte FC’s headquarters and the football club’s youth academy.

The headquarters was nixed from the plans in 2020, long before Wednesday’s decision to pull out from the development as a whole.

Tepper Sports and Entertainment, which owns Charlotte FC, said in part through a spokesperson, “The timeline for the Eastland project posed challenges that led us to research expedited alternatives.”

East side business owners and residents like Manolo Betancur are upset.

“I was mad, I was pissed and I told to my head (sic), I knew it,” Betancur, who owns Manolo’s Bakery on Central Avenue, said. “The only thing he did was play with our dreams.”

He said in 2019, David Tepper personally met with him inside his bakery and promised to bring soccer to the Eastland site.

He and others on the east side are used to broken promises and failed projects that have plagued the Eastland site for more than a decade. However, that history didn’t make this latest broken promise feel any better.

“Why do people have to play with us? Why (do) people have to play with our dreams, with our future, with our hope?” Betancur asked.

Development will continue at the site, but without a Charlotte FC component.

Tracy Dodson, an assistant city manager for the City of Charlotte, said sometimes things change with a project this big.

“As Tepper Sports evolved and MLS started playing, I think their needs changed and their thinking of how to put everything together changed,” Dodson told Channel 9.

Dodson called it a “shift,” noting apartments, retail, housing, a park and more will still be built at the site. A groundbreaking will happen on Aug. 3.

Channel 9′s Joe Bruno spoke with city leaders who said Atrium Health will continue to have a presence in the Eastland project.

“Atrium Health remains committed to providing care closer to home for individuals across the communities we are privileged to serve,” a spokesperson from Atrium told Channel 9. “We will continue to work with the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County as their plans continue to be developed for the Eastland area community.”

Dodson also said the city is looking to make the 20 acres that would have gone to Tepper some sort of outdoor space.

“We are still committed to bringing activity out there on that site -- whether it’s soccer fields or basketball courts -- we don’t know,” she said.

She noted that Charlotte FC will no longer be the driver and anchor at the site, but that they could still be part of it.

However, Tepper Sports told Channel 9, “There are no plans at this time, but we are always open to discussing opportunities to improve the greater Charlotte community.”

The city of Charlotte originally planned to give $110 million to help secure the MLS team in Charlotte. $35 million would have helped Tepper build the complex at the Eastland site, but the contract between the two entities was never signed. Therefore, no taxpayer money has been spent on the MLS component of the development.

(WATCH BELOW: Vendors from old Eastland Mall site remain in limbo as city leaders look for permanent location)