Houston’s new Ismaili Center is set to reach its tallest point in construction in the coming days, marking a milestone celebrated by dignitaries and local officials during a topping-off ceremony Monday at the cultural landmark’s site in the Montrose neighborhood.
The building has slowly taken shape since construction began in 2022 near Buffalo Bayou Park, transforming what was once a grassy field off Montrose Boulevard into a towering skeleton of steel beams and concrete. It’s one of seven Ismaili cultural centers worldwide and the first in the United States.
Greater Houston has the largest concentration of Ismaili Muslims in the U.S., according to spokesperson Farah Lalani of the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern United States, with an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 practicing this branch of Shia Islam calling the region home.
Prince Amyn Aga Khan, the younger brother of the Ismaili leader Aga Khan, thanked Mayor Sylvester Turner for his contributions to the center at a downtown luncheon Monday marking the construction progress.
“Today’s topping out ceremony of the Ismaili Center is a fitting occasion on which to honor your significant contribution and lasting legacy,” he told Turner.
Monday’s milestone has been years in the making. The Aga Khan Foundation purchased the land near Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard in 2006, but excavation did not begin until 2021. Although the center had reportedly been set to open in 2024, Samji said it likely will not be ready until mid-2025.
Ismaili Center Houston aims to be an architectural and cultural marvel for the city. The center will be adorned with Turkish marble and include gardens on all four sides, terraced plantings and water features inspired by ancient Islamic architecture.
The green spaces will include native flora and could serve as a retention pond for nearby Buffalo Bayou during floods, Samji said.