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Cloverleaf Stuck on Sears

That could spell trouble for the county's plans for Cloverleaf. Unless the county buys the property, which would be in addition to the $6.1 million the county has agreed to pay for rest of Cloverleaf, Sears could become a major headache.

Last week, the county won a bidding contest for the mall with Richmond Faith Alive International Ministries, formerly the Richmond Christian Center. The church had originally offered $4 million to buy the mall for a host of uses, including a new 5,000-seat sanctuary, training center, bowling alley and Broadway-style theater.

Church officials plan to meet with lawyers this week to determine their next step, says the Rev. Steve Parson, who believes Chesterfield inappropriately interfered with Faith Alive's attempt to purchase the mall.

"We feel that is ethically wrong," Parson says. "On top of that, they are going to tear the buildings down. It seems absolutely ridiculous what they are doing."

The county hired Maryland developer Chesapeake Realty Ventures LLC to explore redevelopment options, which currently include a mix of residential, office and retail uses. But those plans call for tearing down the mall, at least the portion Chesterfield is purchasing. This includes old J.C. Penney and Hecht's department stores, and the former movie theater at the back of the property.

What about Sears? "We have had conversations with the people who own it," says M.D. "Pete" Stith Jr., deputy county administrator in Chesterfield. "We're working on making it whole with Cloverleaf Mall."

In the county's eyes, making it whole appears to mean leveling Sears, too. Stith says officials have determined the mall doesn't have a future as a regional retail center.

But Glass says the owners have no plans to tear down the Sears buildings.

Glass has gotten plenty of calls about leasing the buildings, he says. At least three retailers have expressed interest in the 122,000-square-foot department store, he says, and "tons of people" have called about the old Tire America building in the front parking lot.

They won't have any trouble finding tenants, he says. So the owner isn't interested in selling to the county — not for anything less than $2.8 million. The old Sears was built in the early 1970s with a solid brick fa‚Ä°ade. Unlike the cookie-cutter big-box retail stores of today, Glass says, Sears is a tank.

"There are no plans to tear down Sears," he says. "Absolutely not." — Scott Bass

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