Am I mad for buying Century Plaza?

Thomas Beavers, Senior Pastor of the New Rising Star Church
Thomas Beavers, Senior Pastor of the New Rising Star Church

ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is Pastor Thomas Beavers .  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

Am I mad for buying Century Plaza?

Yes, THAT Century Plaza– the abandoned mall in east Birmingham.

And that’s not even the mad part.

We’re buying a rundown behemoth of a property and converting it into a church and a school.

743,000 square feet of retail space; 62 acres; 1,400 parking spaces, and 1.3 miles around.

This project is not for the faint of heart.

And, yes we are mad!

Mad at the quality of life for many families in our eastern  Birmingham neighborhoods.

This is a joint venture we are doing with God to change lives.

Who is Thomas Beavers and what makes me tick?

I’m Thomas Beavers, servant leader and senior pastor of New Rising Star Church in East Birmingham. I succeeded my grandfather in ministry, Dr. Tommy Chappell who served as the senior pastor of New Rising Star Church for 35 years (1975-2010).

I started preaching the gospel after graduating high school July 16, 2000; but I never thought that I’d be a pastor. After playing basketball at Kentucky State University (2000-2004), I graduated with a B.S. in Biology with plans to be a medical doctor.

I realized that I had the potential to be a doctor because I could make good grades; but I didn’t have the passion. I didn’t want to become another person who hated going to work every day.

Therefore I pursued a full-time ministry by enrolling in Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in August 2004. I graduated Beeson May, 2007 with a Masters of Divinity and again in December 2013 with a Doctor of Ministry.

I’m now living my dream by doing what I was born to do: know Christ, make him known to the world, love people, lead people, and empower people.

Century Plaza and Community Development

So why would I lead our church to pursue the aging Century Plaza property?

Our church is in zip code 35206: a Birmingham area of high crime, high poverty, and questionable education. This doesn’t mean that all schools are bad, but many people do question the educational system in Birmingham city.

A lack of education leads to poverty, and poverty leads to crime. When people don’t have what they need, they take what they need by any means necessary. For this reason, my grandfather, Dr. Tommy Chappell, who is now our Pastor Emeritus, had a heavy focus on community. I’m just continuing what God started through him.

New Rising Star Church is heavily involved in Community Development. Community Development is about developing people. Communities are people and not buildings. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need a building, but our vision dictates the kind of building that we need.

We develop communities in six ways: education, financial literacy, workforce development, housing, recreation, and the church.

When people consider a place to live, they make decisions directly or indirectly surrounding the quality of these six areas.

What is the school system like? What are the financial institutions like, or do we only have payday lenders in the community? Is there a viable workforce? Can I gain a skill to make a sustainable living?

When people act out, it’s not because they are bad; it’s because they are bored.

When a church invests resources in these six areas of the community, she now has the power to turn dilapidated communities into developed communities. New Rising Star Church already has efforts in all six of these areas.


New Rising Star efforts in the area of education thus far include the following: early childhood learning center (6 weeks-4 years old), summer enrichment camp (200 plus kids), spring break, enrichment camp (75 plus kids), after school enrichment program (50 plus kids), and Star Academy Charter School (Opening August 2018). These efforts are driven by the New Rising Star Community Support Corporation.

Financial Literacy

New Rising Star efforts in the area of finance include the New Rising Star Community; Development Federal Credit Union, whose mission is to put all payday lenders out of business. The NRSCDFCU offers the same products and services as other financial institutions without predatory lending.

Workforce development

New Rising Star efforts in the area of workforce development include Connect4Careers, a job resource fair that invites 50 plus employers who have at least one immediate job opening. New Rising Star Church also partners with Work Faith Birmingham), where I serve on the board, for the purpose of training individuals who are unemployed and underemployed for job readiness.


New Rising Star efforts in the area of housing include buying houses in East Birmingham and fixing these homes for affordable income based housing.


New Rising Star efforts in the area of recreation include all of the programs and supportive services through their Family Life Center.


New Rising Star Church serves alongside other great churches in Birmingham to share the gospel of Jesus Christ for the purpose of knowing Christ and making him known to the world, with three weekend services (1000 plus attendees) and two midweek services (400 plus attendees).

All New Rising Star efforts stem from our vision to turn dilapidated communities into developed communities.

In addition to New Rising Star Church’s community development efforts, we lead several ministry outreaches such as Operation East. This outreach gives away FREE Food ($80,000 in retail value), FREE Clothes, and FREE Healthcare every year to the residents of East Birmingham.

Century Plaza Plan

We plan to use 200,000 square feet of the mall for New Rising Star Church and Star Academy School.

New Rising Star wants to use the rest of the space to partner with other organizations whose visions intersect in developing the community. These organizations will build state of the art locations inside of the mall to continue to bring vitality back to East Birmingham.

We have completed due diligence on the Century Plaza facilities, which includes but are not limited to the following: environmental phase 1 & phase 2 studies, property condition surveys, and more. We are now in the process of interviewing potential partners who will also have space.

We invite the business community to rally around our effort. It’s bigger than a church.


Pastor Thomas Beavers is the Servant Leader and Senior Pastor of the New Rising Star Church in East Birmingham. He’s a family man who loves God, loves people, and cares deeply about the redevelopment of East Birmingham for the betterment of the entire city.

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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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17 thoughts on “Am I mad for buying Century Plaza?”

    1. @Birmingham Only, what would you suggest be done with the building? There will be other entities, as stated in the blog, that NRS is partnering with. These entities may very well be tax paying establiments. However, I would offer the sentiment that a church taking ownership is better than it continuing to be left vacant and an eyesore to the community.

      1. There are several things that theoretically could be done that would generate quite a bit of tax money for the city – conversion to apartments/condos, razed and turned to single family homes, razed and turned into mixed use retail or entertainment. Realistically, however, none of those things happened in the past 10 years, and were unlikely to happen in the next 5 at least. Therefore SOMETHING is better than nothing.

        While I personally feel that the last thing the city needs is another church and I am personally opposed to the expansion of churches, my original comment is that I suppose it is better than being vacant. In that regard, I guess it is. My lamentation also stems from the concept that appears frequently around Birmingham of turning things into green space, parks, or otherwise some sort of non-revenue generating land. I love the city parks as much as anyone, but the city can barely maintain what it has. Century Plaza, Trinity, Carraway, the list goes on of albatrosses around the city’s neck that people want to turn into a park or green space. The city needs residents and businesses to generate tax revenue, not yet another item to maintain while nary a street gets paved and parks rely on community donations.

        If New Rising Star Church actually follows through and if it brings some sort of positive momentum to the area, then good for them and us.

    2. Really? What about the tax paying businesses that a church this size could attract? Not to mention the fact that this kind of facility can inject life and positivity into a community. Looking forward to seeing this project be a success.

    3. Tax Tax Tax did i say Tax oh my goodness we dont need Tax we need Jesus. Okay for you get wacked out we don’t need another church either we need ones we got be stronger you know not alot faith but strong faith wait a minute you haven’t paid taxes 30 years still hit pothole so let me tell you i grew uo going to mall wow i am expecting God to heal save baptize love and hope with power ..knowledge wisdom in Jesus name Be tha Body

    4. A Jesus filled, life giving church is always the best investment a community or city can make. The benefits will far exceed tax dollars. No different than when one puts giving or tithe paying at the top of there monthly budget. Malachi 3:10

  1. I am so excited to hear about this. Not only do I enjoy watching Pastor Beavers when I catch him on television (in fact, when I used cable he filled my DVR because I started wanting to watch him more than when I was just able to watch at specific times, as he is truly a gifted Pastor of the Good News), but my business is located on Montclair Rd. (not too far from this property). I have watch the rise of homelessness affect this particular area more today than I did even 3 years ago when I first opened my business, The Weight Clinic. Anytime someone is passionate about the Gospel and feels lead to rebuild a property with Christ as the focus it is a win in my book! I can’t wait to see this project come to life and I know it will be a very successful, blessed project. Congratulations, Pastor Beavers. I am looking forward to attending a service!

  2. Also, to those more interested in this property generating tax dollars. Consider that rehabilitated people are often able to contribute more to society. I think my point is made with saying only that and not elaborating. God is the only one who can bring healing to the property and area. Our tax dollars have already failed in this area not only locally, but throughout the entire country. Also consider that many of most successful “projects” that I know of in Birmingham have been almost entirely privately funded. Tax dollars are NOT the answer.

    1. Regions Field, Uptown, the Crossplex were all funded by tax dollars. Railroad Park received and receives tax dollars. Almost all of the building renovations that have occurred in the city over the past 5 years have been due to the historic tax credit. I have the city government as much as anyone, but a large portion of the success over the past several years has been due to public expenditure.

  3. I think this is an Awesome way to share, enlighten, spread, and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope I can get involved with this. I do live across the street from Century Plaza. I remember going to Century Plaza as a little girl and shopping and playing. I would love to see waisted property used but better than that used for God’s work. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

  4. How is this development being financed?
    Also, since it is a church development, I assume the school would be private or charter so how would low income children have access?
    The article does not provide details on either.

    1. …sounds like a worthy project and glad to hear someone is doing it…but I have to say, the article and author come across as being self-promoting, self-congratulatory, and reeks of potential political corruption by this pastor also being the board president of this real estate development ‘partnership..’ But heck, at least someone is Birmingham is doing something so I’m a little torn.

  5. This is great news, I fondly remember Century Plaza and even cruising Eastwood Mall. Wishing everyone success as you move forward.
    Is your Credit Union accepting new members? I would be interested in having the stage coach bring you part of my banking business.

  6. My problem is that this idea enables the charter school movement, one which has been a transfer of public school funds to private corporations or groups, with little oversight. Plays into the hands of tea party conservatives. In other areas, this transfer of public funds enables what once were labeled segregation academies to exist in more rural areas. Does anyone think that the jokers running Alabama will provide any oversight? Any state politician can likely get his relatives approved for a charter school, with no control over hiring or how much exorbitant rent is paid to a friend. The schools can select students and leave the rest for the public schools to babysit. i am sure that this church will do a good job here, but the precedent is a bit troubling. In some states, large corporations run charter schools as a profit making means.

  7. I’m very excited for you and your congregation, Dr. Beavers . Yes, it’s a bit radical, but Jesus was considered radical when he walked this earth. You just keep on planting into His kingdom, and he will deal with the naysayers. Praying for you to have much success!

  8. Life, Love and money. To me money counts the very least. There is only one that life should even thinking about depending upon: The Holy Trinity! So Shine on ever more brightly Bright Star, and succeed in doing what you intend, bringing light back to brighten a saddened community. WONDERFUL

    (Keep it a-political. Politics destroy more than they help!)

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