Developers set sights on Masonic buildings for conversion

September 27, 2013 10:31AM

Freemasonry, a storied fraternity whose members included George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, has in recent years been selling its real estate holdings as it struggles to stay afloat. Developers are now taking advantage of the organization’s financial woes, often turning the well-preserved yet antiquated former Masonic temples into luxury condominiums and rental apartments.

The former Masonic club and hotel at 253 West 73rd Street, for example, is now a condo building in which the Corcoran Group’s Larry Schier has sold over 130 apartments, including a three-bedroom unit that was listed for $2.7 million and is now in contract. Schier, who moved into the building in 1984, told the Wall Street Journal that he plays up the history of the Freemasons and their architectural pedigree when making a sale, touting features such as the stone-carved symbols on the building’s façade.

The trend of snapping up the Masons’ real estate isn’t restricted to New York. In Downtown Champaign, Ill., for example, developer Robert Grossman paid $800,000 for a 33,000-square-foot Masonic temple built in 1914, he told the Journal.

“It was in terrible shape,” Grossman told the newspaper. “But I looked at it and fell in love with it.”

The developer spent about $2.5 million converting the building into 19 apartments, which rent for between $900 and $2,000 per month. The apartments were fully leased before construction was complete, Grossman said. [WSJ]Hiten Samtani