- (Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
The developer behind an Islamic community center, popularly known as the "ground zero mosque," a controversial downtown Manhattan establishment that evoked a storm of protests last year when it was originally scheduled to open, said Tuesday that the property might be utilized for commercial purposes, like condominiums, hotel or offices, reported The Wall Street Journal.
The real estate company behind Park 51 (also known as P51) told the newspaper that the Muslim prayer space would remain a part of the plan, but that it might end up taking a smaller portion of the overall project, which is expected to be more than 120,000 square feet.
The developer told the Journal that the community center should have some 20,000 square feet for itself, depending on how much money P51 will manage to raise. But the remaining part of this five-story building in a prime downtown locaiton might end up housing condos.
The news emerged after it became known that the Islamic center is facing potential eviction, due to owning $1.7 million in back rent.
Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Ed) reportedly owns half of the property used by the mosque, and it declared recently that it is ready to evict the center unless the rent is paid. Meanwhile, Park51 has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent ConEd from raising the rent, which they reportedly did. The Islamic center called the new amount exorbitant.
The center opened on Sept. 21 in a much-publicized event featuring a photography exhibition and a lot of public relations gymnastics, which struggled to spread the message of interfaith reconciliation and peace.
Park51, originally named "Cordoba House," set off a storm of controversy last year as thousands of protesters rallied against what they believed to be the construction of a "mega mosque" near ground zero.
The "ground zero mosque" was a sensitive topic for many people who believed its proximity to ground zero was an insult to those who died during the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.