Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2011

New use envisioned for Masonic Temple downtown

Businessmen would like to create wedding venue but need assistance from city

April 28, 2011


From a Masonic Temple to a wedding temple — that’s the new plan for a landmark downtown building, if city commissioners are willing to lend a helping hand.

Lawrence caterer Steve Maceli confirmed his business is becoming more serious about putting together a deal to convert the former Masonic Temple building at the southwest corner of 10th and Massachusetts streets into a reception and wedding hall.

But Maceli also said the project likely will need some help from the city in the form of property tax rebates and other assistance.

“If we don’t get some kind of assistance to do the work that needs to be done, I’m afraid it will continue to sit empty,” Maceli said. “The building still is a Lawrence treasure. To bring that treasure back to life, we just need some help.”

The building is owned by a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton. The ownership group has sent a letter to the city manager asking for tax rebates under the Neighborhood Revitalization Act.

The city approved the use of the NRA recently for Treanor Architects to remodel and expand the old Strong’s Office Supply building in the 1000 block of Vermont Street for it new corporate headquarters.

The act only allows a rebate of new property taxes generated by an expansion or an improvement. In other words, whatever the property taxes are for the building today will continue to be paid in the future, but the development group would get a break on the new taxes that would be added to the property as a result of the improvements.

The ownership group is proposing a tax rebate period of 15 years. In year one, the property would have 95 percent of its new taxes rebated. The percentage would decline by 5 percent a year through the 15-year period. After year 15, the property would receive no rebate.

The tax rebate would go to the ownership group, but Maceli said it would help him because it would allow him to pay a lower lease rate for the building, which in turn would allow him to charge more competitive fees for event rentals.

In addition, the ownership group is asking the city to consider ways it could help with installation of a fire sprinkler system in the building.

Maceli said he’s excited about the possibilities. He believes the building could make downtown a major destination for weddings. He envisions the building being a one-stop shop for weddings because the main floor of the building — which has a historic Reuter organ and a balcony — could be used for wedding ceremonies, while the lower level could be used for receptions. Maceli would continue to keep his existing facility at 1031 N.H. for events, and it also would continue to serve as his commercial kitchen.

Representatives of the ownership group have said they’ve struggled to find a tenant for the building. Most potential tenants would have required a complete reconfiguration of the building. Other tenants also likely would need major changes to the Egyptian Revival-style facade of the building, which has become one of downtown’s more recognizable.

Maceli doesn’t want to change the facade and can use the space in its current configuration. But the building needs an elevator and other ADA improvements, plus new wiring, the fire sprinkler system and other similar improvements.

“I think even people who don’t appreciate historic preservation would not want this building to be gutted,” Maceli said.

The building has been vacant since about 2003, when the Lawrence Scottish Rite sold it to move to a new location in eastern Lawrence.


Azure_Attitude 2 years, 11 months ago

From what I understand the 8th Street Taproom guy wanted it for a music venue: The Sonic Temple. Which I thought was a fatasic idea. I also understnad the city said: NO! I bet he woudln't have come begging to the city for a handout. . . .


Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

I endorse Funkdog 1 for city commission ASAP!

Good thinker!!!


Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Let the Voters Decide When Spending Their Tax Dollars! Why ?

Simply because the Chamber,City Commission and Planning Commission cannot seem to make the most practical and prudent decisions.

Let The Voters Decide every November!

Residential growth does not pay for itself because the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

*Yes or No on light industrial sites – Let The Voters Decide Every November!

Let the voters decide on new retail development. Being more than one million square feet over built is an indication voting taxpayers need to become an active part of the equation annually.

How many is the question?

Which sites are fiscally prudent?

What does the Cost of Community Services Indicate?

What do the market impact studies Indicate?

The only real urgency is the developers lack of patience and accustomed to getting their way upon demand which is usually at a cost to taxpayers with no real benefit in the end.

Are tax increases to increase the wealth of local developers considered a benefit .....NO!

Growth over the last 20 years has been promoted based on a "boom town economy" model = unsustainable and high taxes.

Why Do YOU Think Lawrence Economic Growth Is Lagging?


Worldtourphoto 2 years, 11 months ago

Apparently the LJWorld reported the incident, if not the location. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.


funkdog1 2 years, 11 months ago

I like Steve. He's a great businessman and a great asset to this community. But I have a huge problem with what he's asking. Basically, he's asking on behalf of his potential landlords for handouts from the city.

Why? Compton can afford to bring the building up to ADA standards. Compton could afford to install sprinklers. (Shouldn't he HAVE to? Why does the leasee have to do that?) Compton could afford to work out a deal with Steve wherein Steve paid a lower lease amount for the first ten years and then would agree to pay more after he'd built up his business. I mean, the building is sitting there empty, right? So some rent is better than zero rent.

Why can't this be worked out in the private sector? Why does the city have to get involved? This is where big business ends up screwing the average citizen out of our tax dollars, then making a killing and walking away.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Time to do away with all Free Lunch's! Lawrence Taxpaying Voters should weed out the city hall “Free Lunch” program!

Here’s what happens.

============================================================== Tax abatements do not attract firms or retain business. The enforcement of tax abatements in Lawrence is shameful with the majority of abated firms failing to perform as promised and the City doing nothing. It makes Lawrence the laughing stock of site selection officers. Yet our employee, the Chamber of Commerce, continues to advocate for this failed program.

Kirk McClure


BruceWayne 2 years, 11 months ago

Compton is pretty smart, I will give him that. He gets Maceli and the tax payers to help with the renovations. He then kicks Maceli to the curb, and puts his bank in there like he has wanted to do all along. D & D Tires will soon be a bank drive through for Dougs bank. The city will be building the banks parking with our tax dollars.( did you REALLY think you were voting for a library?) Compton a media fave of the LJW, but to this day not a word about HIS zebra ripping off that young mans arm. I would think it newsworthy that he then shot the zebra, it jumped the fence, and died in Bill Selfs back yard.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Weddings? How may more wedding spaces can be necessary? The old library,train depot,on the, hill in the churchs...... Let's get real.

Kansas City,Mo is cutting back on tax dollar give aways. They appear NOT to be paying back the taxpayers.

This Masonic Lodge deal will never pay back the taxpayers. Neither will the architecture tax dollar deal.

Where in the world will people park for a wedding or any other special event? Are we taxpayers about to get hit AGAIN for more free parking? The 9th and New Hampshire and the Treanor Architecture deal are getting a ton of free parking no matter how it is described.

Isn't it questionable how one development group can grab so many tax dollar give aways in such a short period of time? Now all of a sudden socialism is acceptable? Do First Management and their owners pay taxes? Or do they enjoy tax dollar havens? Is First Management behind on personal property taxes?

The real estate/developer industry is the only one who makes out big time and they know it. This is where the tax dollar incentives should come from. The real estate/developer industry should sweeten the deal for their customers not the taxpayers who are on the losing end and need money for public schools,libraries,new sidewalks in old Lawrence neighborhoods,Bert Nash,Health Care Access etc etc etc.

I say First Management should sweeten the deal for Maceli's not me or other taxpayers.

The three projects named above are not a real problem for me in and of themselves. Shouldn't wealthy corporations stand on their own two feet?


Tony Kisner 2 years, 11 months ago

They should lease it to a group of people who like to gather, have common interest and perform charity work. Also if they could wear funny hats, have secret rituals and ride little motor cycles in local parades. I think this type of group would put the space to good use.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

All incentives should be provided by the property owners NOT the taxpayers!


BigPrune 2 years, 11 months ago

As I said before, that building is NOT a treasure. It needs to be wiped clean off the earth. It has stairs that go up from the sidewalk and it has those hideous columns. In my youth, that building scared me because I thought it had dead people in it - like a mausoleum. There's a thought, if the hysterical society people need to keep the exterior just like it has been for 100 years, turn that ugly building into a mausoleum. They can use the broken Reuter organ for tombside services. If it looks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it is a duck - not a wedding reception hall.


Gareth 2 years, 11 months ago

A Wedding Chapel and Reception Hall?

Yeah, that's a GREAT plan for using the building....

...if we were still living in 1974.


JustNoticed 2 years, 11 months ago

I suppose we're lucky Doug hasn't burned it down yet.


scopi_guy 2 years, 11 months ago

About 10 years ago, I saw a woman's head (one of those plastic heads that people in beauty school practice on) on top of the roof of that building. On top of that was a framework in the shape of a star with lights all over it. I have no idea what was up with that. I'm pretty sure it was when it was still being used as the Mason's lodge. Once a week, you'd see elderly people going in there and they were usually pretty dressed up.


jhawkinsf 2 years, 11 months ago

Best case scenario: The owners bring the building up to code and operate a successful business there. Worst case scenario: No help in the form of abatements and the building languishes, becoming an even greater blight to downtown, driving other businesses elsewhere. Compromise: The greatest likelihood that a win/win situation could happen. The problem with pushing hard for a best case scenario is that it has the greatest risk of ending with a worst case scenario.


captainzeep 2 years, 11 months ago

It looks like a reasonable proposal to me. Get it moving ASAP and we'll book our company xmas party there.


Sigmund 2 years, 11 months ago

You will subsidize the downtown landlords. You will provide them corporate welfare. The Kommission will privatize their profits, socialize their expenses, and bailout their failures with your money. The Kommission will freeze out any outsider who doesn't grease the appropriate palm or contribute to the correct campaigns. And if you complain they will have to lay off police officers, fire fighters, and will have no money for basic services.

And all the while Chad will tout the their plans without asking anyone a single difficult question.


Kyle Chandler 2 years, 11 months ago

I hate to say it, But 'We the People' of Lawrence have allowed our own downtown to be taken hostage by developers who have let great buildings sit empty for FAR too long.

What about the old Wild Oats building? The 'city' should be tax breaking locally owned businesses and the 'developer' should cut some small timer a break. Isn't 'some' money better than none? I guess when your that rich you could care less right?

About ten years ago a few 'small time' business owners bought the Masonic Lodge with hopes of turning it into a live venue/banquet facility and turning the downstairs into an all night diner. Which is something that downtown can use badly. But the 'city' put up so much red tape about what business they wanted to 'allow' in the space. In the end, the discouraged small timers had to sell because the city deemed that a NATIONAL FUTON CHAIN was the only LOGICAL choice for a business there!



Sigmund 2 years, 11 months ago

tolawdjk (anonymous) says… "I say bring it up to code and then start some kind of secret society and have your meetings there."

Agreed! It would be a great place for the Kommission and the Downtown Landlords to hold their off the record private meetings to give out special perks fro free fire sprinklers and such.

Shout Demolition By Neglect!


tolawdjk 2 years, 11 months ago

I say bring it up to code and then start some kind of secret society and have your meetings there.


kernal 2 years, 11 months ago

A wedding venue? In a town this size with a median income of $31,443 (that was in 2008 so it could be lower now)?

Grandiose ideas for a population with a hamburger budget. Wrong town, wrong economy.


Flap Doodle 2 years, 11 months ago

Put in some grow-lights & it'd be ideal for raising triffids.


flux 2 years, 11 months ago

As kids, we were scared to go into the Masonic Temple. All the kids thought it was a church for devil worshipers.


nekansan 2 years, 11 months ago

I think it is a great idea with 3 simple additions to the tax abatement rules.

  1. The clock on the phase out of the tax abatement starts immediately as soon as the plans are approved and the city issues permits for the remodeling & improvements to commence.

  2. The full value of the improvements becomes assessed against the property at the same time.

  3. Any reductions in the scope of the improvements void any and all abatements and the full value becomes due immediately from a tax perspective.

This effectively requires all the improvements to be completed as planned and promised in as rapid a manner as possible. They can't add years to the tax abatement by completing the work slowly or only complete a portion of the work and still claim the abatement. If they are serious about the deal this is fair for both parties.


Kontum1972 2 years, 11 months ago

you guys dont get it...times are pretty damn tuff and your asking for money to build your empire so whats the big buy this it s really going to go anywhere?

How about u dig into your prvt accounts and eat this yourselves if it means so much too you... screw you...

thoise of you who like this idea go write these guys a check and u pay for it out of your own pocket....


coderob 2 years, 11 months ago

If they need a tax abatement, the owners have done the math and know it will barely be a viable business.


Majestic42 2 years, 11 months ago

I dunno, I'm suspicious of anything Doug Compton does. The dude's slimy. Talked with him at some length a couple years ago, and he struck me as the Mr. Burns of Lawrence.


Keith 2 years, 11 months ago

What's the current refrain from Washington, "we're broke"? Well, we're broke locally too. DC had to know when he bought this building what it would take to make it a public space, i.e. ADA compliance etc. For him to come now, hat in hand and say it won't work without public assistance is him thinking we're all fools. Let development pay its own way.


ilovelucy 2 years, 11 months ago

The temple would not be used for weddings solely. I can think of any number of events that could be held there. It would be a great addition to downtown.


tomatogrower 2 years, 11 months ago

It's an historic building. Why can't they go to the Historical Society for some grants. And for making something ADA compliant there has to be some grants out there. Why give them tax abatements that will total a lot more than they end up spending out of their own pockets. If they don't have enough money to fix it up, then the city should claim ownership. At least we would get the profits, instead of someone who doesn't want to risk their own money. They can count it as a loss on their taxes.


PhogPhanatic 2 years, 11 months ago

Really? A wedding hall? That's the best use of this space? What a shame.


pizzapete 2 years, 11 months ago

John Fogerty might have said it best. From the song 'fortunate son"... Some folks are born silver spoon in hand Lord, don't they help themselves, oh But when the taxman comes to the door Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes


George Lippencott 2 years, 11 months ago

Why do we seem to be asked increasingly to pay for activity in Lawrence that does not pay us back (except emotionally). These are for profit entities. If we are going to provide them what amounts to venture capital perhaps we should get a share of their profits??


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 11 months ago

We'll continue to be confronted by issues such as this until the city develops policies in two areas.

  1. Demolition by neglect-- what carrots and/or sticks would prevent it? How do they get implemented and funded?

  2. Abatements, TIFS, rebates-- who gets them, and how do they qualify? Do we really want (and can we afford) a policy that rewards only the Comptons, Fritzels and Treanors, and the banks and development companies they own or partner with?


kumezzo 2 years, 11 months ago

I would love to house the new Lawrence Opera Works there.......would be an amazing space to see an opera performed. But, the amount of work and money it would take to make this space usable as a theatre space is huge.


pizzapete 2 years, 11 months ago

New taxpayer scam envisioned for Masonic Temple might be a more appropriate headline.


Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 11 months ago

After the commissioners capitulated to Treanor and his powerful lobbyist, Ben Dover, for a project with no business receiving this benefit I don't see how they could turn this project away.

This is the kind of project Ben Dover would never get involved in, because it has actual merit.


Steven Gaudreau 2 years, 11 months ago

Once again, the Lawrence whiners are not able to understand basic math. Let me help. Right now, the owner pays 10 apples a year in property tax. The owner wants to spend his own money on the property which will increase the number of apples he pays the county in property tax to 20 apples. The owner says let me keep paying 10 apples a year for 15 years and then I will pay 20 apples a year. If the city says no, the building will continue to devalue over the years until the owner is paying 5 apples a year.
If nothing changes, in 20 years, the county will have collected 200 apples or less. Under this proposal, the county will collect 250 apples and more in the future. This is based on the value doubling which it will based on the new rent and improvements and current low valuation. Why not make the owner pay 20 apples right away? The owner says without the tax incentive, the deal is dead. Not collecting a tax that does not exist costs the city nothing. What the city gains is getting rid of that horrible looking corner in downtown.


jhawkinsf 2 years, 11 months ago

Wouldn't a truly "free" market allow the owner of the property to tear down that building and build a 35 story apartment building with zero parking? Or build the ugliest structure ever built, with no regard for how it might impact it's neighbors? Right, we don't have a "free" marketplace and I'm not sure we really want one. Allowing a building to sit empty in the heart of downtown is not good for anyone, taxpayers included. A fair compromise that will allow development of what has become a blighted property is the best way to go.


somedude20 2 years, 11 months ago

This smells like the outhouse and I do not care for it!!


cheeseburger 2 years, 11 months ago

Businessmean? Maybe when the editors awaken this morning, they can correct their errors.


bangaranggerg 2 years, 11 months ago

Yesterday an article about an elderly wealthy woman giving free water rights to the city of Eudora, and today an article about a development group with some of the richest men in the city of Lawrence claiming they need to reach into the city's pocket to do a job they neglegently put off for a decade. Some disparity there.


oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 11 months ago

the buiding is a treaure. macelli doesn't even know the history of the corner I am willing to bet nor who Karl Preyer was. Interloper historicans, and revisionist history takes over Lawrence.

Of course the building has history, but the history is not gutting the entire interior. Crap, i would be easier to remove the columns in front and build a new catering faciltiy with the colums glue back on.

Leave the buidling as is inside. Leave the old masonic backdrops, leave the organ where it is, if it isn't already in ruins.

The buidling was good enough for decades to serve chicken and noodle dinners in the lower level to all ages, why all this hoopla about needing the Neighborhood Revitalizion Act, and why is that only being allowed downtown and for Harris's project which never went anywhere. Another example of talk in Lawrence and NO money. just a bit, but never enough.

The entire 1000 block of Mass would be better served if leveled. If Cromwell thinks 711 Conn is demoliton by neglect, Cromwell needs to take a stroll down the alley going south from the Masonic Temple and see what is behind all of the business bldgs. BLight, that is what it is.

KRichards, you are correct about the increase in taxes, but one has to wonder what the Temple has been valued at since, as I recall it has been off the tax rolls for years and now with a private owner has the county actuallly got the numbers right this time>?

Of course, Macelli won't want the lot on Vermont metered for fear of his "customers" not haveing a place to park.

All of Downtown needs to be metered. Anyone that can afford Macelli's can afford to pay a meter 25cents an hour. That firm got free parking when catering at the Adams Center.

Lawrence is a bunch of moochers.


Keith Richards 2 years, 11 months ago

You guys are missing the point. If this building continues to sit empty and not appreciate in value, like it has done for the last 8 years, then the city is actually worse off than if they grant the Temple this freeze in property taxes. It is not as though they are asking for a zero $ property tax bill, they are just asking that when the valuation rises because of their improvements the tax bill will stay the same.


stevej 2 years, 11 months ago

Why not change the name of the city to Compton KS. Here is a guy that is tripping over his wealth (dont hold that against him, hes a smart businessman), he should spend his own money instead of relying on handouts so he can add ot his fortune. Its a great building but stop with the handouts to compton and his friends.


true_patriot 2 years, 11 months ago

No more developer welfare. We are talking about closing schools that our children benefit from and consolidating schools which guts critical components of neighborhood unity. Now is not the time to take further hits to city revenue so that the elites in town can get their hands on additional risk-free profit-making with the city and taxpayers shouldering the risk and taking the hit to income.

There were plenty of interesting ideas for that building when it came up for sale by local business owners and citizens but Compton's group outbid them and took this premier piece of downtown real estate and sat on it, blighting the corner with tacky political signs posted on a plywood for years now. They are essentially holding the building and by extension this important downtown corner hostage until taxpayers capitulate and give them more developer welfare.


seeker_of_truth 2 years, 11 months ago

Dougie needs another bail out. Or he's looking at another fire sale.


Bushloather1 2 years, 11 months ago

Negotiate a deal. Maybe ten years instead of twenty.


Eride 2 years, 11 months ago

The ownership group knew what they were getting when they bought the building. They shouldn't be bailed out because they made a poor business decision and now will have to take on a loss to actually make use of the property.

Let them continue to let the property fall into disrepair until they finally decide to accept their poor decisions and take the loss... or the jurisdiction can exercise eminent domain and take it from them.

Granting this assistance does nothing but reward developers for essentially taking our community hostage. "Give us this assistance or we will continue to let this property fall into worse repair until you will give us the assistance we seek." Someone needs to stand up to this and stop it. Our local government isn't supposed to use our tax money to guarantee profits to developers. This isn't free market economics, this is cronyism.


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