The Islamic Center of Eastside is taking steps to rebuild after it fell victim to two arson attacks in recent years.
The center has submitted an application for design review approval with the city of Bellevue, said city planner Faheem Darab. The Reporter has not been able to reach a representative of the Islamic Center, but the application shows the rebuilt structure will be two stories, with about 4,800 square feet of space on its current half-acre site. It will include 23 parking stalls and a 37-foot tall religious spire. The new center, which would be about 2,000 square feet larger than the previous structure, could be completed next year.
Omer Lone is on the center’s Elders Council, and told the Reporter recently the congregation is looking forward to rebuilding the center.
“We have to stay positive, right — there are incidents that happen here and there everywhere, but we can’t keep thinking about that moving forward,” he said.
The center’s congregation has been renting space nearby since the first arson in 2017. The center serves as a place where the congregation goes to worship as often as five times a day and is a centerpiece of the community.
“The community here is very, very active,” Lone said. “This is a place where you worship your God, you meet each other and hang out.”
The Islamic Center leadership is waiting for their land use permits to make their way through the city and then they will begin fundraising with a goal of breaking ground next May. Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak said the city is looking forward to working with the Islamic Center to rebuild.
“The Islamic Center of the Eastside is a very important part of the faith community in Bellevue, and we look forward to them having a new mosque in Bellevue and being able to be a full partner in the city,” Chelminiak said.
The Islamic Center has been struck by arson twice since 2017. The first fire happened on Jan. 14, 2017, when Isaac Wayne Wilson, a homeless man, set fire to the building. He was sentenced to 14 months in prison, 12 of which were to be served in community custody.
Wilson had previously been convicted of fourth-degree assault and disorderly conduct in 2016 following an altercation with a member of the center. It was reported that Wilson had schizophrenia and that members of the Eastside Islamic community had previously tried to help the man pay for his medications.
The center was set on fire again in March 2018. The building had been vacant since the first fire and utilities had similarly been cut off since then. Bellevue police arrested an 18-year-old Bellevue resident, Carlos Daniel Diaz-Cruz, later in March who they believed was the prime suspect.
A camera at the intersection of 148th Avenue and Main Street had captured five people running form the mosque around four minutes before the fire started. The suspect was booked on first-degree arson charges and police at the time said there was no indication that the fire was a hate crime. Police said Diaz-Cruz started the fire by lighting a pile of toilet paper with a cigarette lighter.
As they rebuild the Islamic Center of Eastside, Lone asked the community for prayer and support.
“Everybody is desperately waiting and wanting to get back as soon as possible,” he said.