Historic Alrasool Islamic Center receives $250,000 grant – IF an additional $400,000 is raisedNov 07, 2023 03:38PM ● By Carl Fauver
This 129-year-old Taylorsville building – the oldest structure in the city – has served as the Alrasool Islamic Center for 15 years. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
Owners of the oldest building in Taylorsville have just received a $250,000 grant to help fund much-needed repairs at their historic site. But, in order to receive their entire grant, they’ll have to raise another $400,000 in additional donations.
And even if they pool that entire $650,000, it will still be barely a third of the money structural experts believe is needed to make the Alrasool Islamic Center (1247 W. 4800 South) completely, structurally sound.
It turns out, keeping 129-year-old buildings standing is not cheap.
“We purchased our center in 2008 for $1.175 million,” Alrasool Center Board of Directors member Hassan Mardanlou said. “We love this historic site. But our most recent estimate to completely repair the property is now about $1.8 million. All we can do is work through our priority list. This new grant will help a lot.”
Last month, Mardanlou received the official word his board had been hoping for from the National Fund for Sacred Places, based in Philadelphia.
The letter begins: “On behalf of Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we are pleased to announce that Alrasool Islamic Center has been awarded participation in the 2023 cohort of the National Fund for Sacred Places, with a grant of $250,000.”
Mardanlou explains this is a letter the Alrasool Center had hoped to receive a year ago. They were rejected the first time they applied for the grant. Then, something unexpected happened.
“After the National Fund for Sacred Places turned down our first grant request last year, we started investigating other places we could apply for assistance,” he explained. “But then the organization reached back out to us, asking us to apply again. They said we had been very close (to earning a grant) the first time. We were quite surprised they contacted us; so, we applied again.”
Of the 16 sacred places receiving grant funding in 2023, the Alrasool Islamic Center is the only one in the western United States. The others are all in Minnesota, Missouri and further east.
“They told us this is the first time the National Fund for Sacred Places has ever awarded grant funding to a Muslim community,” Mardanlou said. “I think part of the reason we received the money is because this site has actually been owned by three different faiths over the years.”
Last year, the Alrasool Center became the very first Taylorsville structure named to The National Register of Historic Places. A placard, now on display outside the center’s north doors, explains how the site served as a meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly a century before being sold to Mount Calvary Assembly of God in 1978.
The informational placard also explains how the site was built in two different centuries: “The building was constructed in two phases: the west wing in 1894 with its Victorian Gothic influence and the east wing in 1910 in an eclectic Arts and Crafts style.”
Later this month, Mardanlou will fly to Philadelphia for a “mandatory” two-day training session on how to acquire and make use of their large grant. But one thing he understands very well already: there are strings attached to the funding.
“In order for us to receive the entire $250,000 grant, we will have to raise an additional $400,000 in repair and construction donations,” he said. “The National Fund for Sacred Places will match us dollar-for-dollar on the first $100,000. After that, the match is 2-for-1. We will have to raise another $300,000 – over our first $100,000 – in order to receive the rest of the Sacred Places grant.”
Mardanlou isn’t sure whether there is a specific time limit on how long his center has to raise those additional donations. But he’s confident they can.
“Getting this national grant is the key to everything,” he added. “Now we can apply to Utah groups like the (Larry H. & Gail) Miller Family Foundation and the (George S. and Dolores Doré) Eccles Foundation to try to get more funding. Having the Sacred Places grant should improve our chances a lot.”
All of this outside funding is in addition to generous donations his congregation has already been making over the past several years. Worshippers travel to the center from throughout northern Utah, many of them multiple times a week. Mardanlou says they have done their best to keep paying mounting bills.
“Just since the pandemic hit (March 2020), we have spent about $50,000 on various repairs,” Mardanlou said. “We had to replace a 250 foot water line. We’ve installed new air conditioning units. A new $12,000 water boiler is going in next week. It all adds up quickly.”
Once the grant money is available, Hassan says their first priority is to remodel and upgrade their prayer hall.
“We have seven large windows that need to be replaced; they aren’t even glass – they are plastic – with cracks around the edges that allow cold air in,” he explained. “Our winter heating bill is $900 per month. We also need to repair cracks in the ceiling… replace the carpeting… and repaint.”
Estimates to upgrade this one large room alone in the Alrasool Islamic Center are about $200,000. To help raise additional funds, Mardanlou says they plan to sell the several large, Persian rugs their members now kneel upon to pray. Those sales will come after the colorful rugs are moved to the center’s dining hall, which will serve as their makeshift prayer hall during reconstruction.
“Our goal is to have the prayer hall remodel completely finished, with all new windows installed, in time for the start of Ramadan (in March),” Mardanlou concluded. “We plan to host another large community meal at that time – and we want everyone to see the improved prayer hall.”
Anyone wishing to tour the historic Alrasool Islamic Center is welcome, regardless of their faith. To learn more about the center – or to donate to the construction and repair fund – visit their Facebook page, or their website, aicutah.org. λ