COLUMBIA — The Islamic Center of Central Missouri, which has seen its congregation grow over the last decade, hopes to expand its facility at 201 S. Fifth St.
The center has filed a preliminary plan with the city to include a two-story school complex; a four-story, 27-apartment complex; a gymnasium; and a kitchen.
“I’m just praying to God it pulls through,” said Rashed Nizam, chairman of the mosque. “Our community is eagerly waiting to see the change ... to quickly move forward.”
An architect for the project, Salim Rangwala of St. Louis, e-mailed a site plan to the Columbia Building and Site Development Department on Nov. 29 of last year. No official petition to expand has been filed, although city officials responded to Rangwala with comments on the project.
“The architect is seeking preliminary comments to see if he is on the right track with the proposed development,” John Simon of the building department wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to the city’s development review committee.
City engineering aide David Bauer called the project “pretty preliminary but conceptually it seems OK” in comments cited in a Dec. 3 e-mail by Shane Creech, Building and Site Development manager.
“The provision of a fire department connection for the gym, current school off Locust Street, and apartment building will prevent the blocking of the parking lot and allow fire apparatus access during an emergency,” Lt. Brian Davison, the assistant fire marshal, wrote in a Dec. 1 e-mail to the architect.
The Water and Light Department would require a new transformer for the project, according to comments in an e-mail from John Blakemore, an engineering specialist.
Currently the ICCM is applying for a loan in order to jump-start its long-anticipated project, Nizam said. Once the project is approved by the bank, the center will use another designer to officially apply for permission from the city and start construction.
According to Nizam, one reason for the congregation’s expansion may be the increase in immigrant Muslim families who have come to Columbia.
Since 2001, anti-Islamic fervor has increased nationwide. One instance of anti-mosque activity since 9/11 occurred in Cincinnati on Dec. 20, 2005, when two pipe bombs were detonated outside a mosque.
In Missouri, vandalism toward Islamic sites has increased in the last three years. In September 2008, the sign of Joplin’s Islamic Center was burned. Eight months later, a Cape Girardeau resident threw rocks at the windows of the local Islamic center. In January, vandals struck three walls of the Springfield Islamic Center with profanity and graphic images.