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Church Offers $10 Million for Cloverleaf

He also told the official, Deputy County Administrator Millard D. "Pete" Stith Jr., that the church would develop the site however the county saw fit.

"We've got a big vision. And we've got a plan," Parson says. "The difference [from last year's offer] is we're going to do everything the county would like us to."

In August 2004, Parson's church first attempted to buy the mall for about $4 million. Their plans involved renovating the mall and surrounding property on the 45-acre site into a mixed-use residential, office and retail development complete with a 5,000-seat sanctuary in the old J.C. Penney department store.

The county, however, outbid the church for the property in the following weeks and bought the mall, excluding the Sears building, for $6.1 million. A few months later, the county purchased the adjoining Sears property for $2.8 million.

Chesterfield officials have said the church's plans for the property weren't in the county's best interests.

The county is working with developer Philadelphia Management and Cos. on a plan that includes tearing down the mall, built in 1972, and replacing it with a massive residential, office and retail complex. But those plans include the developer first purchasing the mall from the county. To date, that deal hasn't commenced.

"We're still on track," Ed Barber, chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, says of the county's negotiations with Philadelphia Management. "They are anxious to get going."

In order to recoup its costs, the county would need to sell the mall site for about $10 million, a heavy price tag, real estate sources say, for an old mall otherwise left for dead by major retailers and department stores.

Thomas Jacobson, director of community revitalization for Chesterfield, says the developer and the county should reach a deal by spring 2006. The developer has agreed to purchase the property for $10 million, he says, but the development plans have always included a "financial partnership" with the county.

With one of the largest African-American congregations in metro Richmond, Parson says his church may or may not build a new sanctuary on the site if the county accepts its offer. And, he says, the church's plans involve leasing out much of the vacated mall for about three years to generate income toward the development.

Stith, the deputy county administrator, says he had a "good conversation" with Parson, but made no promises. "We are still with Philadelphia Management," he says. "Right now, we are riding it out with our developer."

Parson, however, says God led him to Cloverleaf.

"We've run the numbers. We've done pro formas on everything," Parson says. "We're here to bail them out." — Scott Bass

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