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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Detroit Masonic Temple In Foreclosure

From today's The Detroit News: 

Detroit's Masonic Temple, the largest of its kind in the world, is in foreclosure for a $152,000 tax bill and the historic property is in the hands of the Wayne County Treasurer.
The 14-story Gothic structure that takes up the entire 500 block of Temple Street has 1,037 rooms and multiple theater and entertainment venues, and was placed on the state's Historic Registry in 1964 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It's slated to be one of thousands of properties on the block in Wayne County's tax foreclosure auction in September. Bidding would start at $160,000.
"We have not heard from any party about this property, so there is no plan at this point," to work out payments, said David Szymanski, chief deputy treasurer for Wayne County.
The tax foreclosure hasn't resulted in the cancellation of any scheduled events. The Temple, where generations of Metro Detroiters have seen stage productions, concerts, graduations and other events, is still operating and is available for private events. Nor does the foreclosure necessarily mean the end of the building.
The default was triggered by unpaid 2010 property taxes. Under state law, owners have years to catch up, but if they don't, a court orders foreclosure the following April, three years after the originaltaxwas due. While the county owns the temple, it hasn't taken over day-to-day control of the property. That would be the responsibility of any buyer at the tax auction. The former temple owners would be allowed to bid at the tax auction, and could buy it back.
Before the temple goes to auction, state, city and county governments would get a chance to buy it, Szymanski said. If there is no interest from any of the government agencies, the building would go to auction. If it remains unsold, the temple would go to a second auction in October where the starting bid would be $500.
Until the tax forfeiture, the building had been owned by the Masonic Temple Association. Calls to Masonic Temple officials were not returned.
Located in the Cass Corridor neighborhood north of downtown, the temple is home to several masonic organizations.
The building, the largest Masonic Temple in the world, comprises 550,000 square feet, according to the temple website. Construction began in 1920 and the temple was dedicated in 1926. The temple's Masonic Theatre can seat 4,404 people, and has been a stop for generations of touring Broadway shows, concerts and Detroit visits of the New York City Opera.With its two ballrooms, office space, cafeteria, dining rooms, barber shop and 16 bowling lanes, the temple is rented out for events from high school graduations to weddings and corporate events.
Recent tenants have included the Detroit Derby Girls Roller Team.
The temple schedule includes an upcoming concert and comedy show, as well as a sold-out May 18 concert by Sixto Rodriguez, the Detroit guitarist and singer who toiled in obscurity until the recent Oscar-winning documentary of his career, "Searching for Sugar Man."
In April 2010, theMasonicTempleand the Ilitch-owned Olympia Entertainment ended a two-year deal in which Olympia Entertainment managed the venue.
At the time, Olympia officials said the firm had invested millions in the facility and paid off and restructured the debt of the building's owners.
Last year, there was an effort through a mix of public and private funds to raise $38million for more renovations to the building and the surrounding Cass Park area. The plan was aided by the Magnet Fund, a supercommittee of state and city economic officials. It includes such organizations as the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Invest Detroit, which identifies big projects around the state that need support through tax breaks. That effort appears to have stalled.
One of the challenges the massive facility has faced is its location, in a blighted Cass Corridor neighborhood. But the area is undergoing a surge of investment. Since 2008, at least 28 derelict or vacant parcels have been sold or entered agreements to sell.


  1. I am hoping that the lodges and other bodies are able to pull together to save the building. I was their in May of 2011 and I very much enjoyed touring the building.



  2. Very sad. Hopefully this magnificent building will be spared from the sad fate which befell the Chicago Scottish Rite building.

  3. A little different spin on the situation here. Looks like there is a payment plan and the county won't take action as long as payments are made in timely manner.



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