Displaced vendors from Central Flea Market in the old Eastland Mall property make their pitch to be part of the site’s redevelopment in light of news that Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC owner David Tepper will not have a youth academy and soccer fields in the project will record .
But ahead of a groundbreaking job in Eastland slated for Wednesday by developer Crosland Southeast, Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari announced that he is once again working on a plan to relocate the flea market to another location.
Fruit seller Jorge Castaneda told The Charlotte Observer on Tuesday that he is open to a move to another location, but that he would “definitely” prefer going back to the Eastland Mall site where he and other sellers were evicted months ago.
“Some People Still Go” [to the Eastland Mall site] and look for us,’ said Castaneda. “It really depends on the location.”
Flea market pushed out of Eastland
Bokhari says sellers could have a “new home” in the next few weekends.
In February, the vendors — known for selling 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 lease with the market operator last fall, which prevented sellers from selling on the site, the Observer previously reported. At the time, the developer of the city’s 80-acre site planned to begin construction on a $175 million mixed-use development. Construction will now start on Wednesday.
In a statement made available Tuesday by Action NC, which has called for help and support for the flea market, representatives doubt the redevelopment will be inclusive as it has already displaced locally owned and operated market businesses. Amid the plan to “propose Eastland” – the branding of the redevelopment – the statement says local market vendors are demanding to “go home” to the only place where they have regularly set up shop for the past decade.
“There is always the promise of cultural diversity and economic development for working communities of color. Reality is always the same; our communities are being shut out or priced as decisions are made and implemented by privileged decision-makers and communities,” the statement said.
After the market closed, a number of vendors asked the city for help.
Last month Bokhari did find a temporary location and invited sellers for free. The market was located in a series of parking lots between 6th and 9th Street and between Brevard and Caldwell Street, the Observer previously reported.
Although Bokhari said the space could accommodate up to 150 vendors, many failed to show up due to their lack of “input and agreement,” WCNC reported.
Now Bokhari says he has found another option, but it is unclear how much participation he had from the original sellers at the central flea market. He says he is checking the site with some displaced suppliers to “make sure any issues are resolved.”
The targeted site is privately owned in east Charlotte, near Matthews, Bokhari said in a press release on Tuesday. The New Market at 1720 Galleria Blvd. was supposed to open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, but the gates will open to sellers at 7 a.m., the release said.
“We heard the pleas for help when the sellers had to come back to the municipality for the second time,” Bokhari said in the press release. “They needed enough space to run their business, the ability to get up and running as quickly as possible, and a location with longer-term potential.”
Bokhari claims that the 11-acre space, which is mostly paved, exceeds the 5 acres that the sellers initially requested. It is located off Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road and offers free parking to customers. He proposes that the market use a professional management company to manage the day-to-day needs and use the revenue from sellers’ fees to buy land in the future.
What about Tepper’s space?
Castaneda said he worked on the Eastland Mall site for eight years before moving, so it would be more difficult for him and customers to get used to a new site.
“You go back to a place where you make money and know that you will succeed,” he said. “We want to get back to where we knew we could succeed and where we knew our customers could easily find us.”
One idea he and other sellers are proposing is that they take over the acres that would be used for the football academy and fields. Tepper decided to pull out of the Eastland Mall project last month after it presented “challenges that led us to explore 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 PM.