Eastside Baha'i center proposed for Crossroads: 23,000-square-foot building would cost $2 million
by Jeff Switzer
BELLEVUE-- The Baha'is are ready to build a first-ever Eastside center for their faith, a permanent home in the most diverse part of Bellevue.
The Eastside congregation is planning a nearly $2 million, 23,000-square-foot center on a vacant acre on Northeast Eighth Street, just across from the Crossroads Shopping Center.
"One of the main motivations was to be able to have a place where we could have all of our activities," said Bill Griffith, Eastside Baha'i spokesman.
"This will be really the first one. There are no other facilities in this area."
Baha'i -- pronounced Bah-HIGH-- is a monotheistic religion independent of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It has no clergy and has as a central theme that humanity is a single race and the day has come for global unity.
"We recognize the validity of all faiths," Griffith said.
Crossroads is the most diverse area of Bellevue, with nearly half of Bellevue's 5,800 Hispanics and one-third of Bellevue's 19,000 Asians.
"One of the things that is most important is the unity of ... all people," said Lona Oostema, a Bellevue member of the Eastside Baha'i congregation. "That spot is a really good place to be."
The group has hired world renowned architect Hossein Amanat of Vancouver, B.C., one of the principal architects for the neo-classical Baha'i buildings of Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, the world center of the Baha'i religion.
Baha'is believe that founder Baha'u'llah, who lived from 1817 to 1892, was the latest of God's messengers, following Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammad.
They claim 5 million worshipers worldwide.
The Eastside Baha'is -- which include immigrants from Iran and Azerbaijan-- have rented Sunday school and worship spaces at Odle Middle School and the Bellevue Regional Library. They also have informational centers in Redmond and Issaquah that each hold about 50 people.
That's not big enough to handle the 300 worshipers in and around Bellevue, nor the 1,000 estimated within a 30-minute drive.
The proposed Eastside Baha'i Faith Regional Center will have a worship space for 390, as well as classrooms and offices. Underground parking will have 78 spaces.
The group paid $500,000 for the land, Griffith said.
Their most optimistic projections show the facility opening in the middle of 2004.
"Hopefully, we'll be a benefit to the people of Bellevue, and in that area in particular, because we believe that to be of service is the highest place we can be as human beings," Oostema said.
Jeff Switzer can be reached at email@example.com or 425-453-4234.
©Copyright 2002, Eastside Journal