By Stephen Oduntan| Staff Writer

When news broke in late April that CIM Group had agreed to acquire Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza for more than $100 million it triggered negative reactions from faith and community leaders in the Crenshaw area.

But Tuesday marked a massive victory for the faith-led coalition and African-American community leaders who were determined to stop the sale of the historic Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall to the CIM Group.

They called it an epic David and Goliath battle.

After weeks of an opposition campaign in which several thousand people signed an online petition opposing the sale, in the late hours of June 14th, CIM announced their decision to back out of the pending deal on their Instagram page:

“CIM helps communities achieve their goals and supports minority-owned businesses,” read a statement posted to their social media account. “CIM has concluded that the community, the Mall, and CIM are best served by us stepping aside. We wish the community great success in achieving all of its goals for the Mall.”

Rev. K.W. Tulloss, one of the faith-based organizers to thwart CIM’s development plans said that CIM had issued a public announcement to the press back in April regarding the proposed purchase and should’ve done the same now they have dropped out of the deal.

Still, he said: “I thank CIM for listening to the voices of the people. Crenshaw mall is one of our community treasures, and that’s why we fought so hard to keep it out of the hands of CIM.”

The coalition, explained Tulloss, sought to prevent CIM from purchasing the mall to avoid skyrocketing real estate prices fueled by the gentrification that in turn have devastated minority-owned businesses. Tulloss said that’s how African-Americans lost West Adams in South Los Angeles to commercial realtors who flooded the historically black area in recent years.

He said, “We want affordable housing. We want retail and restaurants, and so we are ready to support any project that will bring these things to the people of our community.”

Another faith-based leader who spoke out against the purchase was Pastor William D. Smart Jr of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California.

“Crenshaw and King is a sacred place in our community. And so I am excited CIM has backed out,” said Smart. “Now it’s up to us to come together. It’s important that we as African-Americans have self-determination that says we can build in our community.”

The coalition also expressed another critical reason for their opposition to the sale, citing allegations that CIM had strong ties to President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

CIM officials denied having any affiliation to the president.

“The Save the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza petition is based on falsehoods,” the company stated on Instagram. “CIM has no business with, nor is it “backed” by Trump or Kushner. CIM helps communities achieve their goals and supports minority-owned businesses.”

The post added that “CIM never intended to demolish the historical mall.”

At the same time, now that CIM has stepped back from the deal, the Coalition says they’re hopeful they’ll find a minority-based developer that will help revitalize the mall.

“We want any African-American real estate developer that’s going to give us what was promised now that we have taken it from CIM,” said Tulloss. “We deserve the best.” That sentiment was echoed by Pastor Jonathan E.D. Moseley Sr., from Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Los Angeles chapter. “My words are very few,” he said. “The people have spoken, and the voices have been heard. Now it’s time for us to take hold of our community. Let’s get it done.”

Photo: Rev. K.W. Tulloss, Pastor of Weller Street Baptist Church, Pastor Jonathan E. D. Moseley Sr., from Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Los Angeles Chapter, Pastor William D. Smart Jr., of Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California.