The proposal was rejected in June by the St. Anthony City Council, which ruled that a religious and cultural center was incompatible with the site’s light-industrial zoning. That came after a meeting where some St. Anthony residents expressed opposition to the project and where a few made disparaging remarks about the Muslim faith.
However, city leaders maintained the decision was grounded solely in land-use issues.
In a certificate of real estate value processed recently in Hennepin County, a group called the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center purchased the building on Aug. 23, with a down payment of $400,000.
The seller of the building at 3055 Old Highway 8 was the St. Anthony Business Center Corp., an entity tied to fallen real estate developer Jeffrey Wirth. Wirth pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last May to conspiring to evade federal taxes. He awaits sentencing.
Ferdinand Peters, a St. Paul attorney representing the Muslim group, said Thursday that “none of their plans have changed,” regarding the center. When asked how that will be accomplished, given the City Council’s action in June, he said the group is “assessing ways to do that.” He declined to offer further details.
The building is occupied by multiple office tenants, Peters said.
Regarding the building’s sale, St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust said, “Anybody can buy anything, we don’t have any say on who buys something.”
Following the June meeting, members of the Abu-Huraira group said they were considering a legal challenge to the council’s decision, but no lawsuit has been filed.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice continues to investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the city’s rejection of the proposed center, a probe that was requested by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. That probe is ongoing, according to spokeswoman Jeanne Cooney.