When Cloverleaf Mall first opened its doors in August 1972, shoppers were presented with parasols as souvenirs because the sunshades supposedly exemplified fashion and class. Built on 83 acres and adjacent to U.S. Route 60 and Chippenham Parkway, Cloverleaf was greater Richmond’s first large-scale shopping center. With more than 40 stores, a twin-plex movie theater and courtyard, the widely popular mall was the place to be.

Until it wasn’t, that is. As Chesterfield residents moved farther west, nearby neighborhoods deteriorated and other shopping centers — including Regency Square mall — sprang up in the area, Cloverleaf began to lose its customer base. As anchor stores left, the mall’s reputation began to decline. In 1996, an unsolved, brutal double homicide at a store in the mall further decimated the customer base.

For years, the mall limped along as the county made various attempts to revitalize or sell the space. Seedy was the best word to describe the place. Finally, in 2008, it closed for good. In 2011, a North Carolina-based developer, Crosland Southeast, purchased the entire property from Chesterfield County for $5.7 million. It tore down the defunct mall and began development of Stonebridge Marketplace — a mixed-use development that included a 123,600-square-foot Kroger Marketplace and fuel center. Other merchants moved in and, in 2014, upscale apartments called the Element at Stonebridge were completed. The once-seedy area was making a quick turnaround.

Last month we learned that Shamin Hotels, the Richmond region’s largest hotel operator, was purchasing 14 acres on the westernmost portion of the Stonebridge property from the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority. Last week, the RTD’s Sean Gorman reported that, in a 4-1 vote, Chesterfield County supervisors approved a multimillion-dollar incentive package for Shamin that includes an upscale hotel and conference center. County officials say the deal will help Chesterfield attract business travelers and people attending sports tournaments.

The plans sound promising. Full-service hotels with large conference centers and upscale meeting spaces are in short supply and big demand throughout the region — especially in Chesterfield. It’s been exciting to watch the positive changes that are revitalizing the area.

— Robin Beres

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