It’s funny how a rent-dispute can change plans.
No sooner was it revealed that Park51, the so-called ground zero mosque and Islamic community center, was facing an almost $2 million rent tab from Con Edison than Sharif El-Gamal, the developer behind the nascent project, revealed that maybe a condo or a hotel might be better than a glorified Y.On Sunday, the Post revealed Con-Ed wants $1.7 million in back rent from Park51, but Mr. El-Gamal says he owes half that. Now, he is telling The Wall Street Journal he would consider other developments on the site to keep his dream of building a downtown prayer space alive. Apparently, this idea has been in the offing for awhile, amidst fundraising difficulties, but it has only now come to light.
“All options are on the table,” said developer Sharif El-Gamal in a phone interview. “We’re looking at all the different potential uses.”
“We could do anything there,” he added. “We’re sitting on a very valuable piece of real estate.”
“The mosque is something that we’re 100% committed to,” he said.
“We have 20,000 square feet, at a minimum, that’s going to be given to the community,” he added. “It depends on how much money we raise.”
Among the alternatives being considered for the 120,000-square-foot development are condos, office space or a hotel, anything to keep the project “self-sufficient,” as Mr. El-Gamal put it.
He had also kicked around the idea for a Muslim-style Soho house, a private lounge and hostelry for those of Islamic extraction, but apparently that went nowhere. Which is probably a good thing. If a community center drew international animosity, imagine what a private club for Muslims might do.