Is movie studio deal for Eastland Mall dead? - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Is movie studio deal for Eastland Mall dead?


The much talked about plan to make Eastland Mall into a movie studio is looking like a long shot.

A tense meeting between city officials and Studio Charlotte Development left little room for negotiation Thursday.

When Charlotte city council members heard that they would not get the hard numbers they asked for before their exclusive negotiating deal with Studio Charlotte Development expired - they were angry.

"What has changed?" demanded City Council Member Claire Fallon.
"Because right now the general public is waiting," added Mayor Patrick Cannon. "And I'm waiting. We all are waiting and yet there is nothing that gives us any level of indication about where this is going."

City officials were hoping to get construction costs and more details about how private investors would contribute to building a movie studio here at Eastland Mall, a depressed area they've been struggling to put to use. If the studio worked, it could be a colossal boost. If it didn't, it could be a financial disaster. The developer wants millions in incentives. The city wants details before it'll commit.

"Our staff has been waiting to have these questions answered privately," said Economic Development Committee Chair Michael Barnes. "Away from these cameras - and they haven't been answered."

And Studio Charlotte's Bert Hesse says some won't be - that the city has enough information.

"Enough to suffice that they know this is not smoke and mirrors. We have investors that don't want their name publicly announced, or corporations that don't want their names publicly associated with this project yet and we're going to honor that," Hesse said.

"I gave very specific numbers," Hesse went on. "What was interesting they said I was not willing to meet or able to meet with city councilmen. My assistant for the last two weeks has been trying to set up personal meetings, confidential meetings with people on the economic development council and only one of them was willing to meet with me individually."

Councilwoman Lawana Mayfield says she does not remember any such request.
But she also says she doesn't think a private meeting would be necessary.

In an email, she said "The ask from City staff was very clear and we have allowed months for the information to be provided."

WBTV received a statement from studio Charlotte late today.

The group said if they can't come to terms with decision makers in local government, then the project may be moved to another city.

Copyright 2014 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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