Part of the Masonic Temple in Detroit is for sale

Can a long-vacant section of Detroit’s sprawling Masonic Temple find new life?

The owners of the largest Masonic temple in the world hope so. A slice of the Midtown facility known as the East Tower is up for sale. The list price for the 10-story tower is $9 million. The building is a simple slice of the Gothic-style Masonic Temple. Yet the tower is commanding over 64,000 square feet of space. It’s about the same size as the Fox Theater building downtown, according to city property records.

The Masonic East Tower does not contain the two live performance venues or ballrooms, banquet halls, or other popular spaces used for weddings and other private events.

“The East Tower has been vacant for probably 20 years,” said John Kashinsky, head of the Masonic Temple Association of Detroit, which owns the Masonic Temple. The tower was last mainly used by the Shriners group.

“We paid for heat and electricity and everything; it’s just been kind of a drain on the rest of the companies,” Kashinsky said.

Masons hope the East Tower will become a new hotspot. It is being marketed as a prime space for retail, housing, or possibly a boutique hotel, according to Lambrecht Realty’s listing. The Masonic is one block from Little Caesars Arena.

“We would rather do a 99-year lease or a proper partnership” with a potential suitor, Kashinsky said. “But at this point we would really look into anything.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group was receiving unsolicited offers to turn the tower into a boutique hotel.

Realtor Jay Lambrecht said he expects potential buyers to be interested in converting the tower into a mixed-use space. “I really see it being used as retail, restaurant and hotel or apartments,” he said.

The Masonic Temple bills itself as the largest such facility in the world. The structure takes up most of the 500 block of Temple Street, just north of downtown. The facility contains over 1,000 rooms and several theaters and entertainment venues. The complex, which is nearly 100 years old, was listed on the State Historic Register in 1964 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

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In 2013, an unpaid property tax bill of $152,000 put the entire facility at risk of being put up for auction by Wayne County. Later that year, musician Jack White paid the tax bill.

The Masonic has improved his business since then. AEG Presents, the national live music company, began booking and promoting events at Masonic’s two concert venues in 2013.

“We’re looking at one of our best years” this year, Kashinsky said. “There are already over 70 weddings planned and we have our own events. AEG has about 60, 70 concerts planned,” he said.

Additionally, outside partners are interested in possibly renovating another performance hall in the facility as well as a large auditorium known as Drill Hall, Kashinsky said.

The Masonic Temple in Detroit would remain the largest such building even if the east tower were sold.

“We would still have about 500,000 square feet,” Kashinsky said.

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