Sharif El-Gamal, who famously (and controversially) wanted erect a Muslim community center and mosque near the World Trade Center, has apparently scrapped condos as an alternative for the two buildings the developer owns on Park Place, originally earmarked for the center/mosque and now long-stalled. Instead, the Times reports, El-Gamal has said he has tapped starchitect Jean Nouvel (whoa) to build a three-story museum "dedicated to exploring the faith of Islam and its arts and culture" (double whoa). In addition to art exhibits, the 5,000-square-foot building would also house a place for prayer, community programs, and academic and cultural events.
Smaller in size and scope than the once-planned 15-story center, this proposal from El-Gamal is undoubtedly more modest than the much-decried "megamosque." The involvement of Pritzker Prize-winning Nouvel appears to be one way to assuage neighbors and other opponentsa few of whom have already emerged from the woodwork and hold that any kind of plan involving Islam on the site is inappropriate.
One detractor interviewed by the Times called the idea "grotesque," while others familiar with El-Gamal's earlier efforts were just plain surprised at his sudden announcement, delivered through a spokesman. (Though the spokesman said he had consulted with "elected officials, local community members and academics" about the museum.) His nonprofit Park51, which currently uses 51 Park Place for services and events, will relocated. No budget, financing, or timeline details have been disclosed, but demolition permits have already been filed for 51 and 45 Park Place, so that at least one concrete step is in motion.
· Developer Scales Back Plans for Muslim Center Near Ground Zero [Curbed]
· All Park51 coverage [Curbed]