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Taylorsville Journal

Historic Center launches $5 million fundraising campaign

May 06, 2024 02:27PM ● By Carl Fauver

The Alrasool Islamic Center, built in 1894, serves hundreds of men, women and children. Many worshipers have arrived in the United States from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

Owners of the oldest building in Taylorsville have launched a massive fundraising drive this spring in hopes of raising as much as $5 million to keep their 130-year-old structure standing for another century or more.

You’ve read other stories about the historic Alrasool Islamic Center (1247 W. 4800 South) in these pages before. We told you when the former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting hall became the first structure in the city to earn its way on to the National Register of Historic Places. And we reported, last fall, the center had earned a $250,000 grant from a prestigious, Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization.

Partners for Sacred Places describes itself as “an American non-sectarian organization, whose mission is the support of older and historic sacred places by helping congregations and local communities sustain and actively use the structures.”

The Alrasool congregation was one of just 16 recipients to receive the grant from a pool of nearly 400 applicants. The award also marked the first time the National Fund for Sacred Places ever selected a Muslim congregation – and the first time it bestowed an award to a Utah group.

That, of course, is all GOOD news for Alrasool. The BAD news is, the Taylorsville center will not receive one penny of that generous $250,000 grant unless it is able to raise nearly double that amount, $400,000, from other sources. 

“We love our historic building and are very grateful to Sacred Places for their grant,” said Alrasool Center Board of Directors member Hassan Mardanlou. “But we also realize this is a tremendous fundraising challenge.”

Earlier this spring, the Alrasool congregation officially announced a $5 million fundraising campaign. The first $400,000 is required in order to receive the $250,000 Sacred Places donation. But, beyond that, architectural experts estimate a full restoration of the center will actually require a couple of million dollars.

Until last year, David Amott was executive director of Preservation Utah, a nonprofit organization with the mission statement: “Keep the past alive, not only for preservation, but to inspire and provoke a more creative present and sustainable future.”

Although he’s moved on to another job, Amott is continuing to donate his time to assist Alrasool in their multi-million-dollar fundraising endeavor.

“I became aware of Alrasool a few years ago and assisted them with the paperwork to earn their listing on the National Register (of Historic Places),” Amott said. “I knew that designation would assist them in fundraising. I also drafted their initial donation request to Sacred Places.”

Amott says that first funding request led to an unusual sequence of events.

“After they turned us down, we began investigating other places to seek donations,” he continued. “Then, out of the blue, Sacred Places reached back out to us – inviting us to make a few changes in our application and reapply. I think it was a learning curve for their organization. They had never donated to a Muslim congregation before. My guess is, they really wanted their board of directors to evaluate it. We were excited when they encouraged us to try again.”

As Alrasool was reapplying for the Sacred Places donation, they were also receiving some discouraging cost estimates for all the repairs their historic building requires.

“To completely repair our building and strengthen it for a potential earthquake, we received a cost estimate of $1.8 million,” Mardanlou said. “So far, we have raised about $60 to $70 thousand from within our congregation. But obviously, we need much more than that.”

In fact, Amott says construction prices have risen so much in the past few years, he would not be surprised if that estimate is now significantly low.

“Part of this building’s foundation is granite,” Amott said. “Given the size and shape of the granite stones – and considering the timing – we believe these stones are likely ‘leftovers’ from the Salt Lake (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Temple construction. It was finished in 1893 – and the original portion of this building was completed the next year. Buildings this old don’t remain standing without lots of work.”

For evidence of that fact, we need look no further than the scaffolding tower surrounding the Salt Lake Temple. It closed in 2019 and is now not expected to reopen until 2025. The Church has not publicly announced the cost of the massive project.

This spring, the Holiest month on the Islamic Calendar, Ramadan, ran from March 10 to April 9. From sunrise to sunset on each of those days, all adult Muslims are expected to fast. On most nights during Ramadan, Alrasool hosted its members for an after-sunset prayer service and meal.

On one of those evenings, community dignitaries and Salt Lake media were invited to attend as well. There they heard Hassan Mardanlou, David Amott and others announce the ambitious $5 million fundraising campaign. 

“Members of our faith come to worship here from all throughout Utah and several surrounding states,” Mardanlou added. “We have many members who escaped terrible conditions in their home country.”

Amott explained to those in attendance that what is now the Alrasool Islamic Center has been used by many faiths, for many purposes, over the past 130 years.

“This type of building did so much to build Utah,” he said. “This structure has hosted sporting events. It was a movie theater. The people who constructed this building came from Europe. This is not ornate architecture. This is ‘can-do’ architecture. This building is part of the entire community.”

Among those attending the fundraising launch event were Taylorsville City council members Anna Barbieri, Ernest Burgess, Meredith Harker and Bob Knudsen, along with Mayor Kristie Overson.

“We love having the Alrasool Islamic Center in our community and completely support their fundraising campaign,” Overson said. “This building holds so many memories for many people in our community.”

Fundraising organizers say they have “about a year” to raise the first $400,000 needed in order to retain the $250,000 pledge from Sacred Places.

“We are starting to reach out to major donors now – and we have a couple of ‘pretty firm’ commitments,” Amott concluded. “We can’t release any of those donor names yet, because they aren’t completely finalized. We would really like to raise the $3-$5 million by the end of this calendar year. We understand that’s a lofty goal; but we’d rather try our best, and possibly come up short, than not try.”

Those interested in contributing to the Alrasool Islamic Center fundraiser can get more information at their website, λ

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