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OAKLAND, CA-Just when it seemed the Greater St. Paul Baptist Church would miss its deadline to submit its $2.25 million down payment for the 174-acre former United States Naval Medical Center in Oakland, Rev. Joseph Simmons received a surprise phone call.

It was someone calling to donate the necessary cash, anonymously, more than a month after the reverend had told his congregation that the church would likely not be able to come up with the bid. The money made it to the General Services Administration prior to the payment deadline, giving the church two more months to come up with the rest of the money, which it plans to acquire from public and private investors.

The church was the highest bidder for the right to redevelop 174-acre former United States Naval Medical Center in the wooded Oakland Hills neighborhood. Known as Oak Knoll Navy Hospital, it has been the object of much desire since the Navy deactivated it in 1997. The City of Oakland had first dibs, but its offer price of $11.5 million offer was rejected as too low and the property was put out for public bid in May 2002.

The church’s estimated $65-million redevelopment project, which includes demolishing the 475,000-sf hospital and 88 other structures, will include 500 affordable and market-rate homes in addition to a new sanctuary for the church.

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