Is Virginia Beach’s Rock Church for sale? Recent clues indicate a real estate listing is in the works
Is Virginia Beach’s Rock Church International for sale?
Recent postings on social media and a statement from the city’s mayor in response to a question from The Virginian-Pilot about a possible sale suggest a real estate listing of the megachurch could be in the works.
A Facebook post published this week by a local real estate agent indicated the church’s two buildings on Kempsville Road will be marketed at an asking price of $20 million. The post was later deleted but not until it was shared by others.
Messages seeking confirmation of a possible sale left with the church and an attorney who represented one of the church’s pastors in a court case earlier this week were not returned. Attempts to reach a Colliers International commercial real estate advisor named in the social media posting also were not successful, and no online listing of the property could be found.
But when a Pilot reporter messaged Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer to ask if he’d heard the church was for sale — and had been having financial difficulties — Dyer responded, “My understanding also, no details to date.”
News of the possible sale comes in the wake of a prostitution-related criminal investigation involving one of the church’s senior pastors, John Blanchard, in Chesterfield County.
Blanchard, 53, was one of 17 men arrested during a police sting at a motel there in October 2021. Police said an undercover officer posing as a 17-year-old prostitute had been communicating with the men through text messages and arranged to meet them at a motel. Each was arrested when they arrived and charged with felony solicitation of prostitution. Those who drove also were charged with using a vehicle to promote prostitution.
While most of the men were fully prosecuted, charges against Blanchard and one other were withdrawn last year without explanation from prosecutors. Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport, however, announced in January that she had asked a special prosecutor from Brunswick County to investigate Blanchard after receiving new evidence. The special prosecutor is expected to announce by June 7 whether he plans to refile the charges.
According to the Facebook posts related to the potential sale of the church buildings, the Kempsville Road property consists of nearly 13 acres and is zoned for religious/church use. The main building where the sanctuary and offices are located was built in 1997, has 80,000 square feet of space and can accommodate up to 5,200 people, the post said. It has a reported asking price of $15 million.
The second building, where the sanctuary was once housed, was constructed in 1976 and is now used for a food pantry, storage and other related uses, the post said. It has about 95,000 square feet and a marketed price of $5 million.
“This offering is an opportunity for investors to purchase the properties as either an owner user of the existing facilities or for redevelopment as retail, mixed-use, a community venue, multi-family, attached or single family homes, or a combination of uses,” the social media post said.
Rock Church International was founded in 1968 by Blanchard’s in-laws, John and Anne Gimenez, and today consists of 500 churches around the world, according to the church’s website.
John Gimenez died in 2008 and Anne Gimenez, now 90, took over the ministry after his death. In 2013, Blanchard and wife Robin, the Gimenezes’ daughter, were named senior pastors.
The church announced John Blanchard was stepping down from pastoral duties after news of his criminal charges broke, and he returned after they were withdrawn. When Blanchard was in court earlier this week to ask a judge to find a frequent church protester guilty of stalking him, his attorney referred to him as the church’s former lead pastor.
Blanchard is listed as the owner of a company called Zayin Solutions LLC in the State Corporation Commission’s online data. The business sells jumbo video LED screens to churches, according to information about it online. Online records also show the company got a Paycheck Protection Program loan of $16,750 during the coronavirus pandemic.
On a bail determination sheet in his Chesterfield County court file, Blanchard’s employment was listed as “Technology” and his income was reported to be $30,000 a month. He was released on bond after his arrest and was allowed to travel to other states for business while his charges were pending.
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