Bahai News -- Seattle Times - Baha'i community seeks permit for large complex in Bellevue's Crossroads LOCAL NEWS

Thursday, March 27, 2003 - 12:46 a.m. Pacific

Baha'i community seeks permit for large complex in Bellevue's Crossroads

By Leslie Fulbright
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The Baha'i community is petitioning Bellevue for permits to build a large complex on Northeast Eighth Street. By next year, the group plans to transform a vacant acre across from Crossroads Shopping Center into a $2 million, 2,300-square-foot center for the Baha'i faith.

The space will be used for gatherings and celebrations throughout the year, as well as classrooms and a general-purpose facility. The Baha'is have small facilities in Redmond and Issaquah, basically informational centers that accommodate about 50 people. The group usually rents buildings or facilities for Sunday school and larger gatherings.

"This will be the first center of its type in the area," said Bill Griffith, a Baha'i spokesman.

The Baha'is bought the property in 1999 for $500,000, thrilled they could find land in the diverse Crossroads neighborhood. Griffith said that getting a building permit in Bellevue can be slow if the applicant is not opening a business.

Baha'i — pronounced Ba-HIGH — has about 1,000 worshippers on the Eastside, Griffith said. The central teaching of the faith is basic spiritual unity — that all of mankind was created by God and connected as members of one family.

There is no clergy in the Baha'i faith. No individual is vested with authority. Democratically elected institutions called Spiritual Assemblies function at local and national levels.

The Baha'i faith accepts much of the Bible, as well as other spiritual teachings. The faith started in Persia in the mid-19th century, after a call for a new religion that would unite people. It spread to the United States in 1892 and now has a large community of believers from more than 1,800 ethnic groups and almost every country in the world, Griffith said. There are an estimated 140,000 Baha'is in the states.

"We tend to have people from a wide variety of backgrounds," Griffith said. "In recent decades, many Baha'is in Iran were persecuted for their beliefs. Many came here as refugees."

The Baha'is meet every 19 days for a feast and worship. The new center will have worship space for 390, as well as business and devotional meetings and children's classes held weekly.

Renowned architect Hossein Amanat of Vancouver, B.C., has designed the plans for the Bellevue center. He also designed a large Baha'i center in Haifa, Israel.

Funding for the new center came from the congregation, Griffith said.

Leslie Fulbright: 206-515-5637 or lfulbright@seattletimes.com

©Copyright 2003, Seattle Times (WA, USA)

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