Archive for Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tour emphasizes Masonic Temple’s uniqueness; caterer urges city to provide incentives for development

Stephen Maceli, owner of Maceli's, leads a guided tour through the Masonic Temple building on Mass. Street. Maceli is considering converting the historic building to a venue for weddings and catered events.

June 29, 2011


Lawrence caterer and downtown business owner Steve Maceli is convinced that the former Masonic Temple at 10th and Massachusetts streets is worth preserving with its distinctive stone columns and unique Egyptian overtones.

“This is one of the anchors to downtown,” said Maceli, who owns Maceli’s, a catering and banquet hall at 1031 N.H.. “This is as important to downtown as the Eldridge, Liberty Hall, as important as Weaver’s. This is one of the cornerstones of downtown.”

Now, he has to convince city leaders that they ought to help in the effort. Maceli and the building’s owners — a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton — have filed paperwork with the city requesting a 15-year property tax break for the building, plus cash assistance to install a fire sprinkler in the 1910 structure. Maceli wants to use the building as a second location for his catering and event business.

“I don’t think we want a national chain coming in here and gutting the place,” Maceli said. “You have to think of how many potential tenants are out there that could truly preserve the building. We feel like we can.”

Wednesday morning, Maceli provided a tour of the building to bankers, business advisers and event planners. The group of about 20 saw pressed copper ceilings that Maceli plans to bring back to life, the grand hall of the temple that comes with an ornate wood balcony and an old Reuter organ, and odd details like large safes that were placed on every floor of the building when it was used by the Masons.

“If these walls could talk, you would really have to wonder what they would say,” said Allison Vance Moore, a Lawrence commercial real estate broker who is working on the project.

Group members were told Wednesday that city incentives will be an important factor in determining whether the deal will move forward. As previously reported, the building’s owners are asking for:

• Property tax rebates through the Neighborhood Revitalization Act. Under the proposal, 95 percent of the property taxes would be rebated in the first year, and the percentage would drop 5 percent per year until year 16, when there would be no rebate.

• Cash assistance to install a $70,000 fire sprinkler system in the building.

• A commitment from the city to rebuild the sidewalk along the building to help make the site ADA compliant.

Any city incentives would go to the building’s ownership group, but Maceli said they ultimately will help his business. He plans to lease the building from Compton’s group, and he said without the incentives the lease rate would be too high to feasibly operate an event and banquet business at the location.

City commissioners haven’t yet debated the incentive request. Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to send the request to the Public Incentives Review Committee, which will make a recommendation to the commission. PIRC may briefly talk about the project at its meeting on Thursday, but it is not scheduled to make a recommendation until a later date.


Alceste 6 years, 12 months ago

NO. Let the marketplace dictate conditions. If Macelli and Compton don't have the money to pay their taxes, they're in over their heads. NO givebacks for fatcats.

JustNoticed 6 years, 12 months ago

Maybe. Too bad Compton can't be trusted.

average 6 years, 12 months ago

Rather like MD Development's plan on Iowa, the name of the game seems to be to make your property as ugly as possible, then point out that it's ugly so you should get a tax abatement to do something about the blight.

No one is going to give a tax abatement to a business who has a well-landscaped properly-maintained site.

It is a core part of downtown, so I'm torn, but it's pretty clear that's the game being played on us.

Clark Coan 6 years, 12 months ago

Yes, the building is iconic and should be preserved. But Compton, perhaps the richest man in Lawrence, can afford to restore it himself. The Castle Tea Room was restored using funds from a trust fund the former owners set up.

BTW, I've never had a quality meal at Maceli’s. Reminds me of LMH cafeteria food.

funkdog1 6 years, 12 months ago

Wow. Really have to disagree with you there. I think Maceli's serves really quality food.

mcmandy 6 years, 12 months ago

I'll second quivira's opinion. I've had it four times and am not a fan.

tolawdjk 6 years, 12 months ago

Anchor, no. Albatross, maybe.

What is the difference between this place and Liberty Hall, the Eldridge, and Weaver's? Those other places haven't been left to rot and have been productive to downtown. This place is the empTy of Mass. Street.

"“I don’t think we want a national chain coming in here and gutting the place,” Maceli said. “You have to think of how many potential tenants are out there that could truly preserve the building. We feel like we can.”"

You mean you feel like you can if the city gives you the money to do it. You obviously aren't one of the potential tenants that can truely preserve it because you are asking the city to fork over the money for it. You've stated yourself that the place would cost too much for your business to use in the "real" world. You are wanting something for nothing.

The only one of that list that I could possibly be see worth the city assisting on would be the sidewalk.

Just like we have to tell the honest beggers on Mass. Street: "I just don't have any money to give you at this time."

I've got to wonder when was the last honest project Compton undertook that he didn't beg money from the city for.

ilovelucy 6 years, 12 months ago

Let the haters begin!!! This is an excellent building and could be a vibrant part of downtown. For the haters who post here---why don't you check into costs for making a building ADA compliant, restoring the building to it's former elegance, etc? I figure you probably have the time to do this, as much as you spread negativity on this forum. Just curious.....

MarcoPogo 6 years, 12 months ago

To save time, I already calculated it - It will cost roughly 100 ba-billion dollars (American). We have that at our disposal, right?

tolawdjk 6 years, 12 months ago

This -was- an excellent bulding.

fixed it for you.

I don't need to check the costs. I don't want to use the building. If I did want to use the building and the costs were higher than the pile of money I had, I would go to the bank and ask for the money. If the bank said no, I certainly wouldn't "beg" the city for it.

I find it fascinating that if a man begs infront of the building, that is an act to be frowned and even spat upon. However, its is apparently okay for the man inside that building to beg for even larger sums of money.

Rae Hudspeth 6 years, 12 months ago

I'm torn on this logistics of this issue too (have they spoken with the Castle Tea Room to see if there is enough of a market of wealthy enough folk to do this). Damn, though, I have to tip my fedora to your last paragraph. Well said, luv.

irvan moore 6 years, 12 months ago

i like Doug, i like the Temple, can we make it into a parking garage?

Centerville 6 years, 12 months ago

So getting OPM to help cover the regulaory costs of restoring a historic building to the point where it can support a business is bad but getting OPM to pay someone $3,500 for about 10 minutes of pretending to pull razor blades out his mouth is very, very good?

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

I think I could totally restore that building and put in a business if the city would agree to give me $300,000 and tax breaks to do it. For an extra $500,000 I'll even put in a swimming pool with a water slide.

kthxbi 6 years, 12 months ago

I just want them to take the boards off my bathroom.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 12 months ago

Some occasional brevity would be nice. Wilbur, that is your job.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 12 months ago

I think we're somewhat close on this one. Compton has enough money to do it, Maceli definitely does not. Compton's been sitting on that building for years so maybe he should foot the bill. It's not our fault that he let it languish in hopes of a big retailer coming in and leasing it.

The city should have worked with the folks who had the Sonic Temple (music venue/theater) idea years ago; all the business about selling alcohol within a certain distance from a church. Any recollection of who was on the City Commission at that time?

I'm all for the restoration and improvement of the building but not necessarily as a catering spot.

Alceste 6 years, 12 months ago

MarcoPogo: Are you the Phoenix risen of the brilliant poster Pogo who disappeared from the forum?

BigPrune 6 years, 12 months ago

Keep the ugly @ss facade, gut the interior and turn it into a parking garage. It is a mausoleum.

57chevy 6 years, 12 months ago

My house is pretty old and beat up. I think its historically significant (Its older than the masonic temple). The city should give me 95% off my property taxes the first year and decrease it by 5% a year for 16 years. I promise to spend all of the money on making it nicer. Maybe a 52" flat screen TV to start? I guarantee I will be way more appreciative than Compton and his Cronies (sounds like a bad 80's cover band). And Ialso can guarantee I need the money more than he does. What do you say Corliss?

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

If the city should fine these slumlords $300-500 a day until their property is not boarded up, full of weeds, and an eyesore in our community. Think about it, as a homeowner the city will fine me if I do not mow my grass, shovel the sidewalk, etc. Why are commercial business owners allowed to get a free pass? Would it be fair for me to ask the city to buy me a new snow blower or lawn mower if I neglected to take care of my house?

jafs 6 years, 12 months ago


We should give them strong incentives not to let their property sit and become blighted.

Keith 6 years, 12 months ago

“I don’t think we want a national chain coming in here and gutting the place,” Maceli said.

I'd be ok with that, it's only an old Masonic temple. No corporate welfare!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 12 months ago

Go to the bank do not collect anymore money from taxpayers.

It's time for First Management to stand totally on its' own two feet.

Too many looking to stick taxpayers with the bills!

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston joins us to talk about his new book, "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." Johnston reveals how local government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the poor and the middle class to the rich and politically connected.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 12 months ago

Because a 3 year old puff piece about DCJ is relevant to this thread.......

boxers_or_briefs 6 years, 12 months ago

He takes a nice jab at Steve's Place in the video. "It's not a dressed up 60x60 outbuilding".

ilovelucy 6 years, 12 months ago

I'm not a hater. I believe in preserving the past.
It's just unfortunate that the majority of the posters on this forum are whiners. A job of this magnitude could be done for FREE and they would still find something to complain about.
Sad, sad, sad.....

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

No, people are asking legitimate questions as to why we as tax payers should be helping a rich developer with a property he has neglected to maintain. If the owner were taking care of this property on his own dime we wouldn't be discussing this as it would be a non-issue.

BTW, I don't hear you offering to fix it, rent it, or put forth anything in the way of resolving this problem.

Gedanken 6 years, 12 months ago

Maceli is a piece of work. He complains when he has competition from the city that he can't compete. Now he expects the city to help him.

I really hope we do help him out. Surely It will improve the economy. He might add one or two more part time minimum wage jobs. While we are at it - maybe the city should ask him to buy local instead of going to Costco for all his hors d'œuvre. I guess that would entail actually cooking something.

Bob Forer 6 years, 12 months ago

So true. Maceli is the example par excellence of unmitigated and unreconstituted hypocrisy.

Melinda Black 6 years, 12 months ago

I'm having a hard time understanding why these developers bought property they say they can't afford to renovate. I honestly don't believe this is a problem for Lawrence taxpayers to solve.

acg 6 years, 12 months ago

And maybe the haters should get their facts straight. If Doug hadn't bought the building when he did, it would've been taken by the bank in foreclosure. So he buys it and closes it up. Better than the bank getting it's dirty little hands on it and doing god only knows what with the space.

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

Uhm, maybe the bank would have sold it to a responsible buyer instead?

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

Uhm, maybe the bank would have sold it to a responsible buyer instead?

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

Uhm, maybe the bank would have sold it to a responsible buyer instead?

irvan moore 6 years, 12 months ago

yeah, the bank probably would have been to cheap to block it off with that high grade plywood and would have used non historic type materials that would make the building look crappy

friendlyjhawk 6 years, 12 months ago

"Uniqueness" short for WHITE ELEPHANT and get the city to pay for it.

Rae Hudspeth 6 years, 12 months ago

Yes, it is worth preserving, the historical value is outstanding, but please, will making it into a catering establishment serve the Good of All, or just the ostensibly wealthy?

For crikey, if the Masonic Lodge couldn't afford to keep it up, how can the same (assuredly, think about it) clients, afford to pay hither and thither for events keep it going? Yet, what solution is there to the upkeep and maintenance of a self-supporting business without these damnable tax pardons? Surely, there must be something! (and don't call me surly). I don't want to see something of former grandeur go to waste either, but I'm leery of this particular venture. Hell, make it into a fabulously gorgeous nightclub/day museum.

Bob Forer 6 years, 11 months ago

"Surely, there must be something! (and don't call me surly)."

If you are referring to the oft-quoted gag line in the movie "Airplane," it's "Don't call be Shirley."

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