A clash of commerce and religion

An artist’s redesign of the building at the northwest corner of Jos. Campau and Caniff into an Islamic center.


By Charles Sercombe

Acting City Manager Kyle Tertzag said it doesn’t make any sense to allow a religious center to take up prime real estate.

He was commenting on the proposed Islamic center that plans to locate in a building at the northwest corner of Jos. Campau and Caniff – the very center of the city’s business district.

“In most successful communities you don’t have religious institutions as part of your downtown,” Tertzag said.

Religious centers are exempt from paying property taxes, which is one of the main revenue sources that communities rely on to provide basic services, such as police and fire protection.

It’s unclear if there are legal actions that can be taken to prevent the center from operating in the city’s main business district. The city’s Zoning Board approved the center. The Zoning Board members include: Andrew Biscoglia, John Kales, Steven Cherry, Mark Hausner, Mohamed Delwar Hussain, Nasr Hussain, Alan Fertz (alternate), Mohammed Rahman (alternate) and Jason Friedmann.

There will be three Islamic centers operating on that block. And that has more than just city officials talking about this development.

Loretta Gubin of Belmont St. said she is exploring a legal challenge, saying the city can’t afford to allow religious centers to operate in commercial buildings.

“It’s tax-exempt, and it’s taking away business from this city,” she said. “How many buildings do they need in a two-mile radius?”

Supporters of the mosque, who spoke recently at the city’s Plan Commission, say religious centers attract new residents and spur business growth.

The Al-Islah Islamic Center on Caniff plans on moving into the building at Caniff and Jos. Campau.

Abdul Motlib, an Imam at the center, told the Plan Commission last week that on average, only 10 or 15 people will be in the center six days out of the week. On Fridays, he said, about 200 worshipers will be at the center.

But before that happens, the center first has to get the OK from the Zoning Board for a façade design that does not comply with the city’s regulations.

The city requires buildings in the commercial zone that get a variance of use or wish to get a façade upgrade to have at least 70 percent of the façade be windows.

The requirements also says that windows on the upper floors must remain. The design plan for the mosque covers up the upper windows and falls short of the window ratio on the façade.

The Zoning Board will next meet on Feb. 6.


3 Responses to A clash of commerce and religion

  1. Abdul

    January 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    The tax argument is very weak, a mosque can be built in a whole residential block, causing the city to lose much more taxes than a vacant depreciating building. Second, the commercial district is full of abandoned buildings that are deteriorating for a long time ( shoppers world, dodge dealership, etc ) in addition to the huge vacancy rate om the commercial district. What is better and makes more sense, to leave these buildings abandoned or have them occupied and maintained.
    In addition, the number of islamic center in hamtramck is 4 even though they compose, at least, 35 percent of the residents compared to 15 churches which are way larger than existing islamic centers.
    In general, people attending these religious institutions generate income to the city in other ways: shopping in the neighborhood, water bills for these organizations, increased property values, parking and traffic violations and mainly keeping this city alive and vibrant.

  2. Abdul

    January 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    In addition, this building on the corner of caniff and joseph campau was a mainly used to rent out rooms for drug addicts, would it not be wonderful to have it for a clean use, or the building on st. Aubin which is located very close to a residential district, whats more sensible: an islamic center or a pollution spewing factory.

  3. detroit diesel

    January 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    We do not want another mosque here. Its not our fault that the so called city officials are not doing their job of bringing life back to the city. No church or mosque should go there. Why aren’t so called city officials trying to put a good tennant in that building?? Because it takes effort and smarts. You can’t those by hanging out at Tom Jankowski’s bar or Cathy Gordon’s bar either. Just my little opinion.

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