Islamic group mulls community center plan


Beaverton's Islamic Center of Portland hopes to convert an old pizza restaurant into a community center.

Members of the small Shiite Muslim group have approached the city about remodeling the former Silver Dollar Pizza restaurant, 6940 S.W. Hall Blvd., near the intersection with Denney Road, into a community center for gatherings.

The proposal would not turn the building into a mosque, but would leave it open to interfaith meetings, said Ali N. Houdroge, one of the center's leaders.

'We're planning to use it as a community center because it's bigger and the community is growing,' Houdroge said.

About 30 to 40 Muslims meet at the Islamic Center of Portland for Friday prayers and other events, he said.

The group had met for years in a converted house on Southwest 110th Avenue. Members purchased the 8,696-square-foot former restaurant in October 2005 and made some simple modifications so it could be used for community events.

Houdroge and others will meet July 19 with city planners to discuss the proposal. The group's plan requires a conditional-use permit.

The building has one big room with restrooms. It is now used sporadically for social and religious activities. The building usually has been used only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, he said.

Although there is no estimate on how much the project will cost, Houdroge said the center's board of directors raised money to buy the building and have a little left over to do the work. He thinks it could cost between $50,000 and $60,000.

The building's exterior could be modified in the future.

Houdroge, who works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Portland, has been active in helping to dispel stereotypes about Muslims, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the past few years, he has been invited to speak about Islamic issues at Linfield College in McMinnville and George Fox University in Newberg. The Islamic Center members also have joined local Unitarians for several interfaith events, he said.