The Bangladesh Islamic Community of Greater Chicago hopes to buy and renovate the unfinished Christ Temple Church at 2045 Brown Ave.

The Christ Temple Church site.

“We’re not going to change in any way the structure that’s there right now that would require new zoning,” Osman Ahmed, a leader of the group, told neighborhood residents at a 5th Ward meeting last week.

But Mr. Ahmed said the group “will have to invest money into the building to make it habitable and usable, so we can get an occupancy permit.”

He said peak occupancy of the building will probably be about 50 to 100 people during services on Friday and Sunday.

Lynne Heidt, a realtor representing the church, said the property includes 11 parking spaces, but that city regulations require it to provide parking for 40 cars.

At one time the church leased 29 spaces from the city in the nearby public lot across from the city’s Ecology Center on Bridge Street, but that lease has expired and city officials have refused to renew it.

A lone jogger crosses the empty Ecology Center parking lot about noon Sunday.

Doug Gaynor, the city’s parks, recreation and forestry director, said in an interview Monday that city policy now is to not lease public parking lots to any private organization.

“The spaces are available to anyone to use on a first-come-first serve basis,” Mr. Gaynor said.

He noted that the city recently refused to lease parking spaces at James Park in south Evanston to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, which had parking for 24 cars but under city rules needed 54 spaces to accommodate its planned expansion.

The City Council this spring approved the JRC project, waiving the requirement for the additional parking.

At the meeting Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, noted that the City Council recently approved plans for New Hope CME Church at 2004-2010 Emerson St., even though it had only 10 of the 20 parking spaces required under the zoning code.

She said the Islamic group may be able to work out lease agreements for parking with other organizations in the community, including Over the Rainbow, which operates the Hill Arboretum Apartments just across the street.

The Rev. Kenneth Cherry of Christ Temple said his church “has struggled with this property and now wants to follow the wishes of the community to see it completed.”

He said that with the Islamic group’s efforts, “I guarantee you not only will you be pleased with what it will look like, but you’ll also be satisfied with what they will bring to the community.”

Mr. Ahmed said members of the Islamic group are mostly immigrants from the south Asian nation of Bangladesh. They now live on Chicago’s north side as well as in North Shore suburbs including Evanston, so Evanston offers a central location for the group.

He said the group hopes to provide services to the community. There’s plenty of potential he said, “We have medical doctors in our group, so we could offer free clinics. We have plenty of professionals, so we could have community education and computer training. But we need to understand from you what sort of services and needs you have.”

“At the same time,” he said, “We have some expectations from you. We want to be well accepted and integrated into the community.”

Related links
Council OKs New Hope Church plans
JRC gets city OK for new synagogue

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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