Moody Street’s eclectic collection of restaurants, bars, and novelty shops is about to get a bit more vibrant.
The Waltham Islamic Society has purchased the property at 313 Moody St. in Waltham and plans to open a mosque there after passing certain city zoning requirements, according to organization officials. The property formerly housed the New Landing Restaurant.
Leaders of the organization closed the sale on the building in mid-July, buying the space for about $515,000 with money raised locally over the past 10 years.
Abdul Kasozi, the society’s president, said the religious organization, which serves about 60 to 70 local families, hopes to complete renovations and officially open in the next three to four months.
“We have to go through the zoning requirements, and then we’ll go from there,” Kasozi said. “We’ll do whatever is required.”
The mosque will join a Moody Street scene that includes upscale restaurants, bars, sandwich shops, food markets, gift shops, and furniture stores. A consumer on the street can purchase everything from locally brewed beer and tapas to handmade gifts and mangoes.
Kasozi said local Muslims have been praying at the organization’s current location at 16 Park Place, which the society has rented for the past 10 years. He said religious leaders have been raising funds dollar by dollar during that time to acquire a permanent home.
“We have been paying rent all that time, but now we own something,” Kasozi said. “What we’ll have is now better.”
Kasozi said the organization plans to spend around $150,000 on renovations, but does not plan to change the building’s foundation, interior, or exterior significantly — just enough to meet state building codes for use as an assembly space.
“When it’s ready and meets requirements, we will be ready to go in,” he said.
Kasozi said members are thrilled about the new mosque opening.
“Everyone is excited, because we are improving,” Kasozi said. “There is general excitement because it’s a combined effort. The process of looking and contributing — we don’t do it for them, we all do it together.”
Patrick Powell, Waltham’s building commissioner, said his office has not yet received an application from the Waltham Islamic Society.
He said nonprofit religious institutions are allowed by law in any zone — commercial or residential.
However, Powell added that such organizations must still adhere to certain standards, like providing parking for mosque members.
“They have to supply a certain number of parking spaces based on the number of seats or parishioners,” Powell said. “If they cannot supply what’s required by zoning law, then they can seek relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals.”
Powell added that two other religious centers have received approval through appeals in recent years.
Joseph Vizard, a city councilor-at-large, said there have been a number of new religious institutions opening in Waltham over the past few years.
“There are other religious institutions on Moody Street,” he said, adding that the busy thoroughfare has broad appeal because of the number of restaurants, bars, and shops located there.
Syed Yousuf Raheem, who sits on the Waltham Islamic Society’s board, also owns the year-old Waltham India Market at 315 Moody St., next door to where the mosque will open.
Raheem said the Moody Street location’s layout, with an expansive open floor, proves better for congregating and praying than the small rooms at the current Park Place house.
Additionally, Raheem said he expects his grocery store business to boom once the mosque opens.
“It’s an extra feature on Moody Street,” he said. “It will bring more crowds and different crowds.”
Many Waltham residents supported the mosque opening, some citing how much they enjoy shopping at the Indian grocery store next door.
However, longtime Waltham resident Frank Orovitz, 73, said he was concerned about traffic and parking.
“I would hate to see everything jammed up on a Friday night,” he said.Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org