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Mosque-based growth a tradition Investing around religious center on East Side offers much promise

A pocket of hopefully contagious revitalization has begun on Buffalo's East Side, spurred by welcome interest from the Muslim community. It is occurring in a 16-block area near the Masjid Zakariya Mosque on Sobieski Street, where 45 people, mostly Muslim, have shown interest in purchasing 59 parcels of vacant, city-owned lots.

Calls started flooding into the Matt Urban Center on Broadway and to city officials. Many of those phone calls were from people heeding the advice of their imam to build a neighborhood and community around the mosque. Muslim doctors and other professionals have started buying lots and fixing once dilapidated homes. Progress can now be seen in an area that was once devoid of hope.

This is not to say that the entire area has been revitalized. That part is yet to come. But the fact that there is talk of infrastructure improvements is a vast improvement. The other night, there was an open house for people to look at home purchases and start implementing a redevelopment plan.

The center is seeking grants and other opportunities for low- to moderate-income first-time home buyers, creating the possibility of a mix of income levels, religious and ethnic backgrounds. There are also people talking about the possibility of establishing businesses, from plumbers to insurance sales.

The kind of critical mass being generated by Muslims moving into the area is similar to what the Catholic Church did in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It's encouraging progress, and the mosque, its leaders and worshippers deserve immense credit for sinking roots in an area where little has grown lately.

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