Hope Evangelical Church suspected of developing long-term business plan in Grand Cities Mall
by Timothy Charles Holmseth on October 23, 2015 at 9:38 P.M. CST
Hope Evangelical Church is a 501(c)3 religious organization located at 1601 17th Ave S, Grand Forks, North Dakota. The church is not subject to taxes.
However, the church’s tax-exempt status is being questioned.
In 2014, Hope Church formed Land of Hope LLP to purchase the Grand Cities Mall, 1726 S Washington St, Grand Forks.
The Company was formed to separate Hope Church from the rest of the mall.
The Grand Forks Herald was used for the roll-out announcement of the major purchase in February, 2015.
The public was told it was strictly an economic decision because the Church was growing; didn’t want to move; had an opportunity to purchase the entire facility; and that very little would change.
However, emerging information suggests Hope Church is conducting Church business that is not tax exempt, and is in the process of executing a strategic long-term business plan that reaches into 1726 S Washington St, Grand Forks (Grand Cities Mall).
Evidence of a business plan by the Church is emerging that shows there is a plan as follows:
The Church would form an LLP to create the illusion of a separation between the Church and the rest of the mall
The Church pastor would execute the initial public relations and roll-out to sell the idea through the local media and put the public to sleep regarding irregularities
The LLP would hire a Hope Church member and loyalist as mall manager to carry out the directives of the Church and the business plan
The mall manager and his enforcers would use various methods and tactics to drive out old businesses and make room for Hope Church affiliates and associates
The ‘Hope’ (Hope Evangelical Church) format would create a ‘host environment’ for (taxable) businesses under the tax-exempt Church beneath the radar of the IRS
Hope Evangelical Church will be the (real) headquarters and main office for the Grand Cities Mall
THE MEDIA DECEPTION
Evidence shows the Company (Land of Hope LLP) (Hope Evangelical Church) knew exactly what they were doing when they strategically used the Grand Forks Herald to publish false information that would mislead the public about their true business plan.
In February of 2015, Paul Knight, the lead pastor at Hope Church told the Herald the Church planned to keep existing tenants where they were during and after the Church’s acquisition of the Mall.
It was not true.
The public believed it because it was written in the Herald.
But nothing could have been further from the truth.
Knight told the Herald the following.
“The goal really isn’t to be mall managers, the goal is to be a church”
-Paul Knight / Grand Forks Herald / February 11, 2015
Evidence shows the actual goal was to create a facade with an LLP.
Then – under legal cover of the facade – Hope Evangelical Church used the traffic and market of an existing mall to springboard and develop Hope Church and ‘for-profit’ businesses affiliated with Hope Church, while pushing out non-affiliated businesses.
Knight’s professed desire to be a church; but not mall managers; is easily exposed as a clever deception and play on semantics by the very next thing Hope Church did (and/or did not do).
MALL MANAGER IS HOPE CHURCH MEMBER AND LOYALIST
Hope Church did not hire an outside management firm or person that was independent of the Church to manage the Grand Cities Mall. Rather, the Church (Land of Hope LLC) hired Louis Christoffer, a devout Hope Church member to manage the mall.
There is no arguing that Christoffer is subject to the influence and control of Knight and the Church; well beyond the obvious fact he is on their payroll.
Christoffer published a photograph on his Facebook page that showed Knight baptizing him in a full body tank. Louis also appears in a You Tube video that shows him with Hope Church members all together on a bus singing.
The baptism and group bus video pre-dates Christoffer appearing on the scene as mall manager.
Knight told the Herald in February, 2015 that a separate limited liability company (Land of Hope LLP) was formed to oversee the mall, so the part of the building that’s not a church will not be tax-exempt.
That’s relevant, because it shows Knight understood all the legalities of the situation, and clearly attempted to say all the right things during the strategically planned press release to the Herald.
Knight knew the Church was required to be legally separated from the businesses inside the larger part of the mall in order for the Church to remain a 501(c)3.
But – Knight also told the Herald the following.
“We want to have space to expand as a church.”
-Paul Knight / Grand Forks Herald / February 11, 2015
The key words in Knight’s statement are “space” “expand” and “church”.
Knight publically admitted that Hope Church planned to expand itself beyond its present location and sanctuary, and move further out into the mall.
And that’s exactly what they did.
OLD BUSINESSES WOULD BE DRIVEN OUT BY MALL MANAGEMENT
Write Into Action has learned that behind the scenes, adverse actions began to be taken against various tenants within the mall after the Church took over. Businesses began to be targeted for harassment and intimidation by Christoffer and the project manager, Al Maloney.
David Gerszewski, owner, Precious Metal Gold and Silver Exchange, is one business owner that went public when the Church began to drive him out of business.
Write Into Action is withholding the names of some of the individuals interviewed due to their fear of retaliation as these matters unfold.
Gerszewski said Christoffer would repeatedly remind him he was a police officer for ten years.
Christoffer told Gerszewski he owed back-rent of $1,000. Gerszewski said he did not owe the money. He explained it was rent that the prior mall manger agreed he would not have to pay, after Gerszewski was required to begrudgingly re-locate his store, which cost him revenue in down-time due to moving.
“They’re just coming up with ways to demand money,” Gerszewski said.
The tactic described by Gerszewski was confirmed by other sources.
According to sources, Christoffer and Maloney were going to other existing business owners and demanding money in the form of back-rent that Christoffer claimed the businesses owed from a time before Hope Church purchased or operated the Mall.
In one instance, Christoffer was demanding at least two months rent from a tenant that said he/she did not owe the money due to an agreement with prior management.
Other tactics were being used by mall management to drive out existing tenants, as well.
Until very recently, REM of North Dakota, a vocational service for people with special needs, was located at 1726 S. Washington Street, STE 70 (Grand Cities Mall).
That address is now occupied by Women’s Pregnancy Center – A Place of Hope. Sources tell Write Into Action that Women’s Pregnancy Center – A Place of Hope, was set up by a member of Hope Church.
Sources also tell Write Into Action that REM of North Dakota was pushed out over a rent increase by mall management.
Write Into Action, as well WDAZ TV, recently produced stories regarding Land of Hope LLP increasing the rent of Gerszewski from $500 per month to $2,000 per month. The controversial rent increase resulted in Gerszewski being forced out of business, after 18 years in the mall, at an estimated business loss of $20,000.
Gerszewski said his losses were exasperated by the fact that he had relied upon good-faith assurances made by Knight to the Herald, which gave him confidence to expand his inventory and purchase $8,000 in additional shelving for his store.
Gerszewski said he took his concerns to Knight and told him what the Church was doing was “not very Christian”. He said Knight responded with a “chuckle” and said that it had “nothing do with the church”.
Knight’s narcissistic response to Gerszewski borders on sociopathic.
Only seven months prior, Knight, the lead pastor at Hope Church, was the Church’s spokesman to the media on the acquisition of the Mall. He gave an interview to the Herald in February, 2015 and posed for a large photo.
During the roll-out, Knight claimed to have all the facts and was the spokesman for the entire Church. “We might do some rearranging with some of the nonpermanent tenants, but our goal is to keep everybody where they are,” Knight said.
He was lying.
Seven months later, when confronted, Knight chuckled and said everything being done to Gerszewski had nothing to do with the church.
Knight’s statements to the Herald in February, 2015 appear to have been an attempt to prevent public and legal scrutiny of Hope Church’s plans to develop businesses within the Grand Cities Mall while still operating Hope Church as a 501(c)3.
THE “HOPE” FORMAT
In addition to Women’s Pregnancy Center – A Place of Hope, there are other tenants featuring the word “Hope” amongst their nomenclature and logos.
While the Women’s Pregnancy Center is a non-profit Corporation, some of the businesses are not tax-exempt.
People Barbers has a sign in the rear of the shop that says “Family – Hope – Friends”. However, a promotional You Tube video uploaded in June, 2009 promoting the barber shop does not appear to show the message on the wall using the word “Hope”.
Renewed Hope Chiropractic, which is also located in the mall, features the word “Hope” on its nomenclature. The business logo for the chiropractor features a cross running through the words.
HOPE EVANGELICAL CHURCH IS THE MALLS’S (REAL) HEADQUARTERS AND MAIN OFFICE
Hope Church and the Grand Cities Mall office are both located within the Mall and both have entries inside the mall.
Gerszewski said the mall manager, and their project manager, go in and out of Hope Church on a regular basis.
“If they’re going to manage the mall, that’s one thing. But this running over there and seeing if it’s okay – that’s another thing altogether,” Gerszewski said.
Gerszewski said he witnesses Christoffer and Maloney enter the church regularly. “I see these guys; they’re going into the church there all the time. They’ve got a path worn out,” Gerszewski said.