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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Not So Fast... Detroit Makes Deal With Temple

All is not bleak for Detroit after all, it seems. The Temple made a payment to the tax man today, and vows to pay its total bill by June, staving off foreclosure. And there is a potential investor interested in the property.

From today's Detroit News:

The world's largest Masonic Temple entered an agreement Thursday with Wayne County officials to get out of tax foreclosure and Temple officials also said downtown titan Dan Gilbert is exploring the idea of investing in the historic neo-Gothic building.
The Masonic Temple Association and the Wayne County Treasurer's Office agreed on a payment plan on the $152,000 tax bill that put the property in the hands of the county treasurer. Because part of the bill dates back to 2010, the building automatically was put in foreclosure earlier this year and slated for the September public auction of tax foreclosure properties. Masonic officials made a $10,000 payment Thursday morning and have vowed to pay the entire amount by June 3.
"Should they make the payments as scheduled there will be no foreclosure," said David Szymanski, chief deputy treasurer for Wayne County. Technically, the 14-story building at 500 Temple is still in foreclosure but the county has agreed not to take any action.
Masonic President Roger Sobran said the unpaid tax bill is due to a brief partnership with a management company last year that left the Masonic $500,000 in debt. That partnership has ended and now there is a lawsuit between the two parties, Sobran said, though he didn't elaborate.
"We are actually doing pretty good, overall," Sobran said. "We have a lot of events coming up. Interest is high," Sobran said.
That interest apparently includes Quicken Loan's founder Dan Gilbert, whose Rock Ventures entity is one of the largest private landowners of downtown buildings. They have grand designs to renovate the area. Sobran said Masonic Temple officials and representatives from Rock Ventures have had discussions about investing in the facility.
"We are open to the idea and they seemed interested," Sobran said. "But I don't know if will result into anything."
Sobran said there are other potential investors in the temple as well.
The building takes up the 500 block of Temple Street just north of downtown. It has 1,037 rooms and multiple theater and entertainment venues. It was placed on the state's Historic Registry in 1964 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Generations of Metro Detroiters have seen stage productions, concerts, graduations and other events at the facility. 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 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, the Masonic Temple and 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 $38 million for more renovations to the building and the surrounding Cass Park area. The plan was aided by the Magnet Fund, a super committee 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.
Sobran said that "effort fell by the wayside."

H/T Russ Spice

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