Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2004

Masonic temple attracts buyer

Developer to preserve downtown landmark

July 22, 2004


One of the city's largest developers has purchased the landmark Scottish Rite Temple building in downtown Lawrence.

Doug Compton, president of Lawrence-based First Management Inc., confirmed Wednesday he had finalized a deal to purchase the 21,860-square-foot building at the southwest corner of 10th and Massachusetts streets.

Compton said he didn't have a specific use for the property. He said the building's uniqueness -- it features an Egyptian Revival facade and ornate auditorium with extensive woodwork and a historic Reuter Organ Co. pipe organ -- attracted him to the project.

"I want to preserve it," Compton said. "I want to try to keep it as much in its natural state as possible. The woodwork is so beautiful, and the old organ and the high ceilings and the stage are great. It has this presence about it that no other building in downtown has."

Compton said he would look for tenants who could use the building's 275-seat auditorium. He said he thought retail and office uses for the property were unlikely because that probably would require gutting the interior.

"Maybe there is somebody in the theater business that can use it, or maybe somebody has a need for a meeting place," Compton said. "Will that be an easy tenant to find? No, or else somebody already would have stepped forward. But I'm prepared to sit on it for as long as it takes."

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but the asking price for the property had been $775,000.

Tom Wilkerson, executive secretary of the Scottish Rite of Masons, said the organization was pleased to find a buyer interested in keeping the character of the building where his group has met for the past 93 years.

"Anything that would allow us to come back, walk in and recognize the past would certainly make us happy," Wilkerson said.

An earlier deal for the property, which was put on the market in May 2003, fell apart after the contract purchasers were unable to finalize financing to convert the building into a music and entertainment venue.

Compton said he had no interest in finding such a user for the building, in part because a drinking establishment could harm his investment in the former Connex International building, which is directly north of the temple. Construction work is under way to convert that building to house a Qdoba Mexican Grill, wireless phone store, offices and apartments.

"I have too much going on around there. I don't want to see another Granada go in there," Compton said, referring to a downtown nightclub. "Nothing against the Granada, but one is enough in the 1000 block."

With the acquisition, Compton said, he owns eight buildings in the downtown area. Besides the temple building, they are:

  • 947 Mass., the former Connex building.
  • 934 Mass., Pizza Hut.
  • 930 Mass., Yarn Barn.
  • 837 Mass., Jock's Nitch.
  • 805 Mass., The Buckle.
  • 7 E. Seventh St., retail/office building.
  • 623 Vt., the former Rick's Place.

"I've been here since 1978, and I've really seen it change," Compton said of the downtown area. "I think people are getting away from the malls and getting back to the core of the cities when it comes to shopping."

The Masonic Temple building was put on the market when members of the fraternal organization decided it was too large and expensive to serve as their meeting place. The organization has about 450 members, down from a high of more than 2,500 members in the 1950s, Wilkerson said.

He said the group was leasing meeting space in the office building immediately south of the temple. The group wants either to buy a smaller building or build a new one.

Serologicals Corp. announced Wednesday that second-quarter earnings increased to 18 cents per share, up from 5 cents per share during the same period a year ago.The company also announced that it had filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue up to $300 million in debt and equity securities in the future. Company leaders said the money would help the company fund future acquisitions and growth initiatives.Shares of Serologicals were down 49 cents, or 2.5 percent, to close at $19.07 per share Wednesday on the Nasdaq market.

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