Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share additional facts surrounding the article on “Forest Park Mall Success Led to Covenant Bank.” It is refreshing to know media professionals still serve their readers with focus and pride in their work based on accuracy and integrity.
The following are the facts addressing general misconceptions in the April 17th article:
The purchase price of the mall was $5,723,836 not $13.2 million.
The ministry, not Dr. Winston, purchased the Forest Park Mall in 1998 from the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, and as a committed corporate citizen, the ministry and its related entities have contributed significantly to the economic growth and vitality of the Village of Forest Park during the past 10-plus years.
Through its tenants, the mall generates approximately $65 million in sales revenue per year, which generates sales tax revenue that benefits the Village, and the mall has created approximately 400 local jobs.
Because of this strong revenue base, Mayor Calderone of Forest Park publicly acknowledged that during the height of the recent recession, when other surrounding villages were laying off city workers, Forest Park did not have to do so, in great part because of new revenue from the Forest Park Mall.
The ministry, through its purchase of the Mall, was the genesis of a new economic engine for residents and businesses when many had abandoned the area.
Although Dr. Winston’s vision has been the driving force of many of the accomplishments and successful ventures, the ministry is the sole owner of these properties. Specifically, Dr. Winston:
Does not own a mall in Tuskegee, nor the Aviation company; the ministry does.
Does not own two airplanes. The ministry owns one plane.
Was an investor in Covenant Bank from the beginning and he too lost money, over 1 .6 million dollars of his own money. He continued to invest until the FDIC reassigned the assets of the bank. As you know, the bank was an incorporated corporation, owned by investors and totally separate from the church.
As you stated in the article, when the ministry bought the mall it was “mostly empty and considered an economic blight by the village.” Most business tenants had abandoned it years earlier, and as a result, the mall was providing almost no tax revenue to the Village to help meet city expenses or to pay for important community services and infrastructure improvements needed by village residents. Clearly, the village was suffering from the absence of a thriving and successful shopping mall.
In developing the mall, the ministry took the risks, sought and secured the financing, recruited the tenants, and essentially paid the price so that others could enjoy the fruits of the mall’s success. Just as the mall helped the community and its local residents, Dr. Winston fully expected Covenant Bank to do the same. I believe most of the shareholders who invested in the bank, of which I am one, had the same expectation.
Living Word has a comprehensive community and economic development plan and it includes a diverse portfolio of ventures. These economic development ventures serve our communities, our members and, more importantly, people. Our vision outside of the walls of our church is one of service, hope, faith, progress, economic empowerment, while at the same time improving the quality of life for as many people in and beyond our immediate reach.
Dr. Winston’s vision, direction and engagement have guided our ministry and have delivered a continuous level of success similar to what has been experienced in the Forest Park Mall. Dr. Winston fully expected Covenant Bank to do the same, and as you reported in your April 9th article, the bank did contribute to the economic betterment of many residents and businesses in the Lawndale community.
Thank you again for allowing me to clarify some of the information in your recent article, and sharing more perspective about the Forest Park Mall.
Living Word Christian Center and its investments has been a significant contributor to the economic progress of the community, and we remain committed to its future progress.
Director of Communications
Living Word Christian Center and its Related Entities