A reconstruction project is in the works for the Nueces Mosque in order to address a lack of prayer space in the current facility and create a community center that is welcoming to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
According to Imam Mohamed-Umer Esmail of the Nueces Mosque, the reconstruction team is reaching the end of the planning phase and hopes to submit their plan to the city of Austin in early 2017. Demolition and construction of the facility is scheduled to begin in 2018.
Rawand Abdelghani, a social work graduate student and member of the reconstruction project team, said the central purpose of the project is to create a larger space for prayer.
“Nueces Mosque is just two houses put together,” Abdelghani said. “When we have our Friday service, we have over 200 people come to pray. We always have people praying on the porch.”
Esmail said a secondary objective is to offer an inviting community center for people of all faiths to rest or work.
“We want the place to be open,” Esmail said. “So even non-Muslims can come and study if they want.”
Abdelghani said they also intend to build apartments for students as part of the project, the profits of which can be used to help pay off the costs of construction.
“Our big scope dream is for our mosque to have two to three floors of apartments,” Abdelghani said.
Abdelghani said financing the project is the biggest obstacle the team and the community face.
“Based on the caliber [of the project], it can run us anywhere from 8 million dollars to 14 million dollars,” Abdelghani said. “Right now, we are in the process of working out how we are going to acquire that money. We have done a lot of fundraising. Given that we’ve only been fundraising for, I’d say, the past couple of years, we are not at that level.”
Retired priest Roger Temme said he would support the project.
“For me, it’s natural to be here, be supportive, to reach out in love,” Temme said. “I think there’s a need for us to … really take this concept of loving each other seriously. That’s why I come out of the Christian faith believing that loving others inclusively, everyone is a part of that love.”
Esmail estimates Nueces Mosque has raised $500,000 over the past two years from alumni, students and community members. Esmail said they aim to raise $2,000,000 before seeking an Islamic financing option for the remainder of the project.
This story has been updated since its original publication.