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'Ground Zero Mosque' Basically Just Soho House With Praying

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After yesterday's renderings reveal, Park51 developer Sharif el-Gamal has announced more details about the planned layout of the 15-story Islamic community center and how he intends to pay the estimated $140 million cost of building the controversy magnet. He tells the Times that most of the financing will come through sukuk, a bondlike investment devised to help Muslim investors avoid those pesky religious prohibitions on interest. They're huge in Dubai, obvi.

The tentative plans call for a $17 million prayer space in the basement?a musalla, not a mosque, because it doesn't meet the rules required to sanctify a mosque (but "Ground Zero Musalla" is way less catchy!)?and rooms on the upper floors dedicated to a 9/11 memorial and prayer spaces for other faiths. As for keeping Park51 afloat, that's where the gym, pool, and all those condo buyers moving into the Financial District come in!

Gamal envisions a paid membership structure not unlike what's found in similar clubs all over town, albeit ones more focused on mojitos than Muhammad:

Mr. Gamal is counting on the center's eventually having about 4,330 paying members, about half of them paying $2,700 a year for the most expensive family plan, which would include use of a planned fitness center and pool. Most of that core group, Mr. Gamal expects, would be non-Muslim neighborhood residents and commuters. Muslims from around the region would make up a larger but less frequently visiting group — what he calls the "dinner and a date" crowd — many of them choosing the cheapest $375 family membership for cultural programs.

Luring a diverse group of members and visitors may prove to be a challenge, but Gamal says Park51 is up to the task: "We don’t see this being a success until there has been a bar mitzvah, a Hindu wedding." That'll be the Hora heard 'round the world, eh?
· Muslim Center’s Developer to Use Islamic Loan Plan [NYT]
· Alert the Media, New 'Ground Zero Mosque' Renderings Unveiled! [Curbed]

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45 Park Place, New York, NY 10007