Construction to begin in fall on mosque at west Omaha of US interfaith site

Construction to begin in fall on mosque at west Omaha of US interfaith site
(Wednesday, April 15, 2015) 08:45

A mosque at an interfaith site in west Omaha may open as early as next year.

Construction on the Muslim component of the Tri-Faith Initiative is scheduled to start this fall, leaders announced during a press conference Tuesday morning.

The mosque is a key piece of the interfaith site and helps complete plans for having all three faith groups represented — Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“This brings us closer to our vision,” said Dr. Syed Mohiuddin, one of the interfaith leaders and president of a group that will build the mosque.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the mosque, which will serve as an institute for Muslim prayer, learning and fellowship, is scheduled May 21. Nearly all of the money has been raised for building the mosque, estimated to cost $6.2 million to $6.5 million including land, Mohiuddin said.

The donors to the mosque include a mix of Muslims and non-Muslims.

Mohiuddin said the goal is to open the mosque in late 2016 or early 2017.

The plans come on the heels of Sunday’s vote by members of Countryside Community Church to relocate to the site and become the Christian presence.

The 35-acre site near 132nd and Pacific Streets is in the Sterling Ridge retail-office-residential development on the former Highland Country Club golf course, more recently known as Ironwood.

The first piece of the interfaith campus landed in place when Temple Israel moved into its new synagogue at the site in 2013.

A fourth building planned for the site will serve as a shared interfaith center and will provide social, educational and conference space.

Organizers of the interfaith effort believe that the site might be the only one in the nation where three such congregations are intentionally planning to locate at the same place.

The Omaha effort has drawn notice elsewhere. The national Jewish publication The Forward, for example, said that if the Omaha experiment works, it “will become a beacon of cooperation in a world of interreligious strife.”

The Rev. Eric Elnes, Countryside pastor, has said his congregation’s vote shows that members understand the benefits of collaborating with Muslims and Jews at the site.

Countryside’s new church would have 71,100 square feet, based on a preliminary design. The cost is estimated at about $25 million, including land. Elnes said the cost would be covered through fundraising and sale of the existing church.

Countryside already has $16.1 million in firm financial commitments toward construction, mostly from congregation members, which number about 1,500, Elnes said.

Susie Buffett, a member of Countryside Community Church, said Tuesday that she would provide financial support for its new church on the site through her Sherwood Foundation but declined to say how much.

She is a board member of the Tri-Faith Initiative and president of the Sherwood Foundation, which is one of four Buffett family foundations funded by her father, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett.

A spokeswoman for the Westside Community Schools said it was premature for the district to talk about the Countryside church property or its future. The church property is just west of Westside High School.

“When and if it comes on the market, the Westside administration and board of education would certainly want to have a discussion about it,” spokeswoman Peggy Rupprecht said. “The proximity (of the property) to the high school is of interest to the district.’’

The property was not part of the discussion when the school district established the amount of the bond issue it currently is seeking, Rupprecht said.

Even if the district decided to purchase the Countryside property, the $1 million that would be set aside for land acquisition as part of that $79.9 million proposal would not be used to acquire the property.

The bulk of the bond funds would pay to replace three elementary schools and provide security, safety and infrastructure at all of the district’s other elementary schools and its middle school.

World-Herald staff writers Steve Jordon and Julie Anderson contributed to this report
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