Naperville officials might allow religious services at Mall of India
Naperville officials are considering a request for a zoning variance that would allow an unused section of the Mall of India property to be transformed into an area for religious services.
The city's planning and zoning commission on Wednesday gave a unanimous recommendation to the proposal, which now heads to the city council for final approval. If granted, a 3,090-square-foot parcel that was formerly the site of a Walmart garden center would become an area for prayer and special events.
Architect Shilpa Purohit told commission members the site, located at 776 S. Route 59 in the Fox River Commons Shopping Center, would house Sri Veda Dharmashala, a nonprofit Hindu institution founded by the Acharya, a guru or spiritual teacher.
Among the events hosted would be naming and first feeding ceremonies, wedding and birthday celebrations, and daily and special prayers.
"For whatever the reason is, this has not been very desirable for the uses that are allowed," Purohit said. "But as we say, someone's junk is someone else's treasure. This is a perfect fit for this organization."
Purohit said at peak times the facility, which can hold about 220 people, would host up to 150 people. No additional parking is needed and only minor changes would be made to the exterior, which would be used as a seating area before services.
Hours of operation would be daily from 9 a.m. to noon and from 4 to 9 p.m. in addition to other times for special events.
Walmart vacated the site in 2014 to relocate and expand. Mall of India. which includes a grocery store, a food court, shops, a dance studio and a day care center, opened in 2020, but the former garden center remained empty.
"That area, it's good to see the investment that's gone in over the last couple of years," Commissioner Manas Athanikar said. "I like to see the capital investment that you guys are putting in."