Phase 1 work begins on historic Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 155 views 

Almost 10 months after acquiring the iconic Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith, Lance Beaty is moving forward on what he calls “Phase 1” of work to convert the building into an entertainment and possible club venue.

A permit for work valued at $500,000 was issued Aug. 31 to Kansas City, Mo.-based MTS Contracting to begin exterior restoration on the Masonic Temple, to include removing the dirt from basement walls to restore and seal them.

Through Temple Holdings LLC, Beaty acquired the Masonic Temple on Nov. 6. in a $2.5 million deal that at the time was estimated to include 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. 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 told The City Wire on Tuesday (Sept. 8) that Temple Holdings has received approval for the initial phase of construction from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and from the National Park Service (U.S. Department of the Interior).

According to a statement from Temple Holdings, the first phase includes waterproofing the building, installing and/or repairing drainage systems, washing exterior limestone with an alkaline cleaner to avoiding damaging the historic stonework, and installing a new roof. The work is expected to take at least five months.

Michael Brown, vice president of Acquisitions and Development for Beaty Capital Group, said the work is about not only building a business, but preserving a piece of the city’s history.

“Frankly it’s the coolest building I’ve ever been in. I knew from the first time we walked in the door that we had a responsibility to do what no one else had done; to restore and preserve this piece of Fort Smith history,” Brown said.

Beaty said “a full assessment of the building including environmental, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems,” has been completed. While he is not yet willing to divulge details on how the building will be used, he said “a business plan and detailed financial model were developed around the buildings original design and historic nature.”

“It has taken almost a year of planning and today we began executing our plan,” Beaty said in Tuesday’s statement.

This is not the first high-profile Fort Smith restoration project Beaty and his partner have undertaken. 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.

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