In order to attract a builder for a hotel and conference center at the old Cloverleaf Mall, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors last week approved a grant for Shamin Hotels of Chester by a 4-1 vote with Steve Elswick dissenting.
As part of the agreement, Shamin Hotels – which is owned by P.T. Amin and his son Neil Amin – would build a $30 million mixed-use development at the site on the southwest corner of routes 60 and 150.
Over the next 20 years, the grants would refund all of the sales taxes generated by the hotel and conference center, all of occupancy taxes at the hotel and conference center and four other hotels that are currently being built or renovated by Shamin Hotels in the county, and all of the real estate taxes paid by the hotels and conference center.
The grants would be paid annually until Shamin recoups the costs associated with building the hotel and conference center and establishes a reserve fund for the conference center’s continued operations. The amount of the reserve fund would be agreed to by the county and Shamin Hotels.
Shamin would also receive annually for 10 years – subject to the supervisors’ approval – real estate and sales taxes generated from any retail, residential or entertainment development at the site, now known as Stonebridge.
Those rebates would be 80 percent for years 1-7 and 60, 40 and 20 percent, respectively, for years 8-10.
The grant also encourages Shamin to locate any new hotel headquarters at Stonebridge by providing a $2 million reimbursement for property acquisition. Shamin headquarters is currently at 2000 Ware Bottom Spring Road in Chester.
The grant funding was not without controversy, however. It resulted in a front-page story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch the day before the June 26 supervisors meeting, and that story engendered critical comments from county officials during an afternoon work session held prior to the June 26 regular meeting, area resident Phil Lohr said.
“You can’t continue to make deals without … exposing the details to the taxpayers,” said Lohr, a member of Bermuda Advocates for Responsible Development and Chesterfield Citizens United. “Taxpayers are really frustrated that you try to run items like this through the consent agenda [the item was pulled for discussion due to a citizen’s request]. I equate this particular project maybe to the Coliseum replacement in Richmond,” he said. “Sooner or later you’re going to be held accountable. We’re really getting fed up with it.”
Rodney Martin, a Midlothian corporate financial advisor, questioned the sale of 14 acres at Stonebridge, noting that a county document included a sale date of March 13, 2018. After Martin pressed the issue, the supervisors had county official Matt Harris respond. Harris said that Shamin had purchase options on the property “for some time” with extensions.
Midlothian Realtor Jay Lafler said he was “thrilled” to hear that the Amins were involved. “The deal that Garrett [Hart] and Economic Development [have] worked with them is about the best deal we could get in today’s environment,” Lafler said. “It’s no longer a retail-first environment. We’ve been holding out years for retail for [those 14] acres. Nothing could be better for eastern Midlothian.”
Sonny Kern said the county “could not have picked anybody better in the state” than P.C. Amin.
Harris noted that the county has made the 82-acre site its marquee for revitalization, adding that Shamin is paying around $2 million for the property, which is held by the EDA.
The agreement will save the county some $400,000 in debt service because the county will pay off the land early, he said. Chesterfield will still own what Harris called “some out-parcels” on the property.
“This is a performance-based deal,” he said, noting that if Shamin goes bankrupt, the county would still have a road and associated infrastructure that it is paying Shamin about $552,000 to build. “If the Amins don’t perform, the taxpayers are out nothing,” Harris said.
Supervisor Leslie Haley of Midlothian said that area lacks hotels, and noted the supervisors made a commitment four years ago to supporting tourism.
Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said that “a board prior to us purchased Cloverleaf Mall,” noting that she came on the board in 2008. The mall opened in 1972, closed in 2008 and was torn down in 2011. “The hotel tax is paid by people who stay at the hotel, not people who live in Chesterfield,” Jaeckle said.
Noting that he is an accountant, supervisor James Holland said the agreement “has a lot of positives. I grimace at some of the arrangements, but it’s good for the county.”
Holland called P.T. Amin – who emigrated to the U.S. from India – “an American success story.” Amin was recently named the Chester Business Association’s Businessperson of the Year.