Concord mosque proposal moves ahead

  • The building at 9 Pearl St. in Concord will be torn down to make room for the Islamic Society of Greater Concord’s future mosque parking lot. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sometimes new growth requires the destruction of old growth.

And for the Islamic Society of Greater Concord to build the city’s first mosque, that means the double-ended brick building at 9 Pearl St. – uninhabited for the last five years and structurally unstable, according to its owner – has to go.

The Concord planning board recognized this during its regular meeting Wednesday night when they granted the mosque a conditional use permit to allow places of religious worship in an Urban Commercial district and minor site plan approval for the mosque’s proposed 3,300-square foot parking lot.

The Islamic Society’s drive for the city’s first permanent mosque cleared its first hurdle in August when the city’s zoning board approved the plans and granted six variances, including one that would let the society have less parking than the city technically requires.

The approval was conditional upon the society purchasing the Pearl Street building, which will be knocked down to create a 16-space parking area, and merging that lot with its proposed 181 N. Main St. location. The Society also has a written agreement with the First Congregational Church next door to share its 36-space lot during the mosque’s busiest hours.

There was some concern that the city would be losing a unique structure. Ward 4 City Councilor Byron Champlin, who sits on the planning board, said the house is the second building in a three-block area to be torn down to make room for parking. Pearl Street is located within Ward 4.

“I’m not against the project, but I am concerned about a tendency to allow older buildings to deteriorate and then to get torn down,” Champlin said.

According to minutes from a Sept. 7 Heritage Commission meeting, the 2½ story building was built in the 1880s.

Planning board Chairman Richard Woodfin said at the meeting that the building was found to have no historical value by the Heritage Commission.

But Jay Stewart of Hopkinton, who owns the building, said the decision to let the building decline was a conscious one. He said the building has electrical and roofing issues, and estimated fixing the building would cost as much as $300,000.

“We didn’t feel comfortable having people live there,” he said.

The Islamic Society is currently raising $700,000 to purchase the 181 N. Main St. building, which has been on the market for more than four years.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)