Doctor Couple Plans Kashmir Cultural Centre in New York

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Drs. Khursheed and Lubna Guru- Photo credit: Buffalo News

SRINAGAR:- A Kashmiri doctor couple living in USA are in the process of setting up a library and museum of Kashmiri art, history, and culture in New York using over 1500 books, paintings, and other artefacts collected by them over the years, Buffalo News reported.

Dr Khurshid Guru, a noted Robotic Surgeon, and his wife Dr Lubna Guru are in the process of buying a 97-year-old vacant, historic stone church at 650 Park Place in Niagara Falls, and convert the same into their new museum, which they believe will serve as the Centre for Kashmir culture and studies.

Originally from Sopore in north Kashmir, Dr Guru is the son of famous cardiologist of Kashmir, late Dr Abdul Ahad Guru.

According to Khurshid, the collection, valued at about $2 million, is potentially the largest such collection outside of Kashmir itself. “The collection is decent to a level that you could create a nice little museum,” Guru said.

The couple is buying a vacant 97-year-old stone church, located in Niagara Falls, which they plan to convert into their new museum — the Centre for Kashmir. Additionally, they are also purchasing two houses to provide residential space for visiting Kashmiri artists, scholars and other contributors.

Born and raised in Kashmir, Khurshid graduated from medical school in India, where he met his wife. The duo came to the United States for further training and residency in Detroit and then to Buffalo. Guru acknowledged that the venture is risky, especially at the time when tourism has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic. He, however, is confident that visitors will come back quickly enough.

This century-old stone church on Park Place in Niagara Falls may become the new home of the future Center for Kashmir, a museum of Kashmiri, books, art and culture. (Google)

Valued at about $2 million, it is potentially the largest such collection outside of Kashmir itself – including the biggest assortment of books on the region aside from what might be in the British Museum or the Library of Congress,  Guru said.

“It’s a decent collection to a level that you could create a nice little museum,” Guru said.

He and his wife for years have sought to create a nonprofit museum that would act as a draw for patrons to learn more about Kashmir. As equally proud residents of East Amherst since 2005, they’ve not only settled on Western New York as home but also as the base of their venture.

The Gurus are buying a vacant historic stone church from Michael Suszek at 650 Park Place in Niagara Falls, which they plan to convert into their new museum, the Centre for Kashmir. Closing is scheduled for July 15. Renovations to the 97-year-old church will include a new roof, masonry repair, complete gutting of the interior and new mechanical and electrical systems.

They are also purchasing two houses on 4th Street, across Main and Walnut streets from the 9,468-square-foot church, to provide residential space for visiting Kashmiri artists, scholars and other contributors.

Additionally, plans call for art and cultural clinics for local residents, possibly in partnership with the Rapids Theatre, Niagara Arts and Cultural Centre, and Niagara University.

As part of the project, estimated to cost about $2 million, the Gurus have applied through LSNY Holdings LLC for a 10-year property tax break and sales tax exemptions from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, which formally accepted the application on June 30 and set a public hearing for July 29. NCIDA officials noted that the church is located in a distressed census tract.

The project costs include $200,000 for acquisition of the property, $1.25 million for construction and improvements, $250,000 for furniture and equipment, and $300,000 for other “soft” costs. The tax incentives, if approved, would yield $153,190 in property tax savings over a decade and $70,000 from sales taxes. The Gurus are also seeking $500,000 in federal and state historic tax credits, plus $1.5 million in equity or bank financing.

Guru said he plans to donate his collection to the museum, which – according to NCIDA documents – will display 600 “original paintings, etchings, drawings and artefacts.”

That’s less than half of the total, which Guru said includes more than 1,200 books, manuscripts and drawings, dating from the late 1700s and 1800s. Most are written by Europeans and other travelers through the British Empire. Additionally, the Gurus possess about 150 paintings and 200 other artefacts. Guru said he also knows “a bunch of people across the world who are interested in donating other items.”

Guru acknowledged that the venture is risky, especially right now, when tourism to the Falls has plummeted during the pandemic. But he expressed confidence in the region and hopes that visitors will come back quickly enough.

“Hopefully, it’ll be good,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool project. It’s a very risky project, but Niagara County has all the ingredients to be a world-class place.”

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