Phoenix Village mall owner acquires Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 446 views 

Lance Beaty, the developer who transformed the eyesore that was once Phoenix Village Mall into an area that is now home to more than 1,100 jobs, hopes he is able to perform similar magic on the iconic and historic Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith.

Through Temple Holdings LLC, Beaty acquired the Masonic Temple on Nov. 6. in a $2.5 million deal that includes property acquisition and redevelopment costs. Beaty Capital Group, which is owned by Beaty, financed the deal.

The iconic 3-story building located at 200 N. 11th St., was designed by architect George Mann of Little Rock in conjunction with architects J.J. Haralson and E.C. Nelson of Fort Smith. It has numerous meeting rooms and a theatre capable of seating 900. The facility was listed in early 2014 with a price of $750,000. Beaty did not disclose what he paid to acquire the building.

According to a statement from Temple Holdings, the building was proposed Jan. 28 1927, and the property was acquired in February 1927 for $49,250. Bids for construction were opened in June 1928. The contract for general construction was let to Gordon Walker of Little Rock on a bid of $208,550 on June 11, 1928. Ground was broken on June 25, 1928. The corner stone was laid Dec. 7, 1928. The temple opened for Masons on Sept. 6, 1929, and was dedicated Sept. 16, 1929.

Beaty is also a managing partner with FSM Redevelopment, which purchased the 35-acre and almost abandoned Phoenix Village Mall in January 2009 After investing more than $16 million in the property, the location is now home to more than 1,100 jobs. Dr. Steve Nelson of Fort Smith is also a partner in FSM Redevelopment.

The two largest employers at the Phoenix Center are Sykes Enterprises Inc., a Tampa, Fla-based outsourcing operation employing more than 500 in their Fort Smith center, and a Shared Services Center owned and operated by Community Health Systems Inc. of Franklin, Tenn.. The shared Services Center employs approximately 600 full-time employees in an almost 90,000-square-foot portion of the property.

“I have a history of successfully redeveloping distressed or other unique assets in which traditional developers haven’t seen potential,” Beaty said in a statement. “With the E.J. Stoneman coal plant in Cassville, Wisconsin, in 1996 and with the Phoenix property here in Fort Smith in 2009, we bought something that no one else wanted and created job centers that put people to work. And we did this all with private sector money and little to no taxpayer support, I might add.”

Beaty said redevelopment plans for the Temple are not complete, but hopes to release more detail in the next few months.

“The acquisition of the temple building is the first step in a long tedious process. Plans are being developed for the property consistent with the process for historically significant properties,” Beaty said. “It’s my hope that in the next few months we’ll be able to release more details. We have some innovative options for the property, and are optimistic the public will find them exciting and that the building will once again be an active part of downtown Fort Smith.”

Beaty is the second attempt at new ownership in 2014 for the historic structure.

On June 10, Fiery Moon Global announced plans to acquire the Masonic Temple from the Western Arkansas Scottish Rite Bodies. Fiery Moon, a media and event company, said the Temple Theatre, offices and dining area should be fully restored to their original grandeur and condition within 36 months. That deal never materialized.

Jerry Seiter, a listing agent with Nunnelee Wright Commercial Properties, said in early 2014 that the replacement value for the facility was estimated at $20 million.

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