Proposal would transform historic LDS ward house into new Afghan refugee community center in Fairpark

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A team is asking Salt Lake City to allow it to retrofit a former ward meeting house into a community center and place of worship for a nonprofit that helps Afghan refugees.

The Utah Hazara Foundation would create a gathering place at 1102 W. 400 N. in the city’s Fairpark neighborhood if its conditional use application is approved.

The group needs permission because the 29th Ward Meeting House, originally built in 1902, sits in a residential area that is now zoned R-1-7000. 

“Once the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, our Hazara culture has been threatened by unrest in our homeland, forcing us to find a safer place to live,” the Utah Hazara Foundation says on its site. “We now call Utah home.”

The Hazara community has faced centuries of persecution in Afghanistan, and nowhere in that country remains safe, the group said. It began relocating to Utah in the early 2000s.

“We have been your friends and neighbors since the early 2000s and hope to continue a friendly relationship within the Utah community,” the group wrote. 

The conditional use permit is likely to be approved, given the zone allows places of worship, religious institutes and adaptive reuse of a landmark building site. There’s also an existing LDS ward a block north of this site.

The site had been used by a nonprofit that provided community gardening opportunities.

The meeting house is a brick structure that’s been painted white. The architects described primarily retrofitting the building and adding about 650 square feet to what would become a 12,698-square-foot building.

The addition would accommodate a new two-story elevator to access the two floors and basement of the building. The existing historic elements, including windows and doors, would remain in place, and the addition would have custom work to match the historic elements on the current building.

The property is owned by Kent Whipple. The Salt Lake City-based architect Warren Lloyd, owner of Lloyd Architects, is the representative on the application.

“The intent is to reintegrate the existing historic building structure back into the surrounding residential neighborhood and local community,” Lloyd wrote, “while recognizing the significance and importance of preserving the historic landmark building character and architectural features of the original 29th Ward Meeting House.”

In a statement to Building Salt Lake, Lloyd said the building would give the Hazara community in Salt Lake City its first opportunity to gather together.

“They are in need of a community center to preserve culture and family, celebrate and pray, and continue their learning and traditions,” he said. “Bellwether International is partnering with the Utah Hazara Association to build their dream community center.”

The retrofit would include a series of classrooms, a kitchen, two assembly rooms and bathroom updates.

Overnight stays wouldn’t be allowed under the proposal. The venue could be used for weddings, music, receptions and other evening events.

According to the application, the property could be subject to timelines and rules to minimize potential impacts to the neighborhood.

Development Details

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.