Local church leaving Masonic Temple building for a space across the street; cafe in the works
A new location in downtown Lawrence will allow a local church to offer more services and open a public cafe, its pastor says.
The Greenhouse Culture, a nondenominational church currently located in the former Masonic Temple at 1001 Massachusetts St., plans to move across the street to the former Buffalo Wild Wings location at 1012 Massachusetts St.
Jared Scholz, lead pastor of the church, said The Greenhouse Culture purchased the new location in July and plans to move in this fall. The two-story building previously housed Buffalo Wild Wings, which moved to 2624 Iowa St. in 2014, and after that it was home to the short-lived Lawrence location of Cajun restaurant Jazz.
The Greenhouse Culture has been leasing the former Masonic Temple since 2012.
While the church’s new location offers about the same amount of space for Sunday services, Scholz said the new space would also allow the church to have a cafe, which will be open to the public five days a week.
“We’ve had dreams of (a cafe) in our current space, but that didn’t work out for a number of little different reasons,” he said. “So we turned around and said, ‘What’s that sitting over there?'”
Scholz said The Greenhouse Culture was developing food and coffee options for the cafe, but he declined to provide details. His brother Jason, who is a chef in Denver, is working on the offerings, he said.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” Scholz said. “We want it to be accessible, both menu and pricewise. We want it to reflect our church, which is a mixture of all different types of people and incomes.”
Next to the cafe, at the back of the building on the first floor, the church is creating a mixed-use space that will serve as the main sanctuary area, but will also double as a meeting or concert space.
While the church previously hosted events and concerts in the former Masonic Temple, Scholz said the new location would allow for the church to offer more all-ages events. A glass dividing wall similar to a garage door will allow for the space to expand into the cafe for certain events.
“Whether it’s big events, concerts or art shows, we’ll be able to make the whole (main floor) one room,” Scholz said.
The area allows for a capacity of about 500 people, he said.
The second floor will feature classrooms, the church’s offices, a small recording studio and the middle school and high school hangout known as “The Loft.”
Scholz said The Loft is meant to be a safe place for local youth to spend their time after school. Many middle school students, specifically those who attend nearby Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, often come to the church after school.
“What’s been really cool is building a lot of relationships with kids and their parents we otherwise would not have known,” Scholz said.
While the church is a nonprofit organization, adding the cafe business puts it into a legal gray area that lawyers are currently exploring. To avoid any legal issues, the church is working toward the cafe portion of the building paying property and sales taxes.
“We want to be a blessing to the neighborhood, as well,” Scholz said.
With The Greenhouse Culture moving out of the Masonic Temple, the historic building’s future isn’t clear.
The building is owned by a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton. He said he didn’t have any immediate plans for the building and was sorry to see The Greenhouse Culture leave.
“I was kind of caught off guard,” Compton said. “They have done an amazing job on the place and bringing it back to its original condition. They have put a lot of heart and soul into the building. I’m really grateful to them.”
Compton said finding another church that wanted to use the building probably would be the most straightforward way of filling the space. However, he said other creative uses for the building could materialize.
For example, the building has an inordinate number of bank vaults. Compton said he has a letter from the early 1900s from J.B. Watkins, a Lawrence banker who operated just down the street. Watkins provided the loan for the Masonic Temple building but required that the building be constructed in a way that it could house a bank, if the temple venture happened to fail.
Compton said he wouldn’t rule out a bank or retail uses for the building, pointing to examples of how downtown buildings could be retrofitted for new uses.
“It is hard to believe the old Varsity Theater building could ever become an Urban Outfitters store,” Compton said of the building at 1013 Massachusetts St. “But it did, and it is a great store. I think you could do some interesting things with the building, but it would take some money (to retrofit.) But I’m really not sure what to do with it right now.”
— Journal World Editor Chad Lawhorn contributed to this report.