Baha'i News -- Baha'is unveil plans for center

Baha'is unveil plans for center

Plans for a new worship, social and education center for Baha'is in the West and Northwest suburbs were unveiled by the faith's leaders in Itasca Saturday.

Preliminary drawings for the proposed 6,000-square-foot center were displayed during a special ceremony at the project site on the east side of Prospect Avenue, about one half-mile south of Thorndale Avenue.

The facility will be nowhere near the size or purpose of the Baha'i temple in Wilmette, which attracts 250,000 visitors each year and is a national historic landmark.

But when completed, the new Itasca center will serve 600 Baha'is from 20 communities in an area bordered by DuPage County on the east, Elgin and Aurora on the west, Naperville on the south and Buffalo Grove on the north.

"This location is ideal for us, because we've been operating in rented space for the last 20 years in a facility in Wood Dale," said Jim Percic, a member of the center's planning board.

"The building will be a focal point, a place where we can have large gatherings, run our Sunday school and do more things on an area-wide basis."

The center will feature classrooms, a multi-purpose room, a library, a common area and a kitchen.

Informal discussions with Itasca village officials have been going on for about a month, said Village Administrator David Williams.

The project also will need to get approval from DuPage County because a road will have to be built to get into and out of the center and on to Prospect Avenue, a county highway.

It may be early next year before formal plans are brought before village officials, said Baha'i member Ron Precht.

"We've been looking for a site seriously for about a year," he said. "This is a good site. It's centrally located, and it will be large enough to support a building. It will suit our needs."

Officials do not yet know how long it will take to build. That will depend on how quickly funds can be raised for the estimated $1 million project.

"We hope we can begin construction next year," Precht said.

The Baha'i faith was founded in 1844 and stresses the oneness of humanity.

Its religious principals teach that there is a oneness of God and a oneness of religion.

Of an estimated 6 to 7 million Baha'is worldwide in the year 2000, some 142,000 live in the United States. The largest community is in India.

About 300,000 to 350,000 Baha'is live in Iran, although the Islamic fundamentalist government there has persecuted Baha'is in that country since coming to power in 1979.

- Daily Herald staff writer Carmen Greco Jr. contributed to this report.

©Copyright 2002, Chicago Daily Herald

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