West Ridge Chamber of Commerce officials say a one-time fast food restaurant is a key piece of real estate, and allowing it to become a mosque would take it off the tax rolls.
Community members say it is economic concerns, not religious prejudice, that has caused them to not embrace the idea of turning a one-time fast food restaurant in Chicago's West Ridge neighborhood into a mosque.
"It's a key property zoned for retail... That's what we want to keep it," said Amie Zander of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, explaining that converting the property into a place of Islamic worship would take it off the tax rolls.
A zoning hearing held last week reportedly addressed economic development issues and traffic, but not matters of religion.
"We have no problem with it being a mosque," Zander said. "We would be happy to find them another location."
The attorney representing the Faizan E. Madina Islamic Education Center, which currently worships at a storefront mosque on North Ridge Avenue, said it is a very small group of nice people who want to practice their religion. Richard Kruse said the 40-person group was particularly interested in the restaurant location because it has enough parking
Although some mosque members question whether there would be the same kind of opposition to a church or a synagogue, both sides say they want to avoid the kind of contentious debate surrounding the location of a New York City mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.
One church member said he hopes the mosque will be good for the community and for his nearby restaurant business.
But the chamber said it must focus on economic development for the whole community.
"We lost a lot of auto dealers recently," Zander said of the area along North Western Avenue. "This is our time to see what we want in our community and see what will fit best."
The current owners of the restaurant, at 6821 N. Western Ave., which has sat vacant since January 2009, entered into a sales agreement with Faizan E Madina earlier this summer.