Skyrocketing taxes have led the owners of the historic Masonic Temple property, on a half acre of developable land in downtown Calgary, to put it up for sale.
The listing includes the three-storey brick building and two parking lots on just over half an acre of land.
“Once in a blue moon does a site like this become available,” said John Fisher, senior vice-president of CBRE in Calgary, which has listed the property located in the city’s Beltline district just a couple of blocks from the downtown core. “We’ve had a few pieces of interest in it.
“I’m very confident it’s going to go to a buyer that sees the value in being able to acquire an asset that’s so centre-ice, at really relatively historically lower pricing than you would have seen even two or three years ago.”
Fisher called it a “unique” property.
“It’s an interesting building. It’s very historic so it has some unique aspects to it. Three storeys above grade and a basement,” he said, listing its attributes. “The basement is a fully useable space with boardrooms, meeting rooms and a large gathering area with a big kitchen.
“On the main floor and the third floor, there are both office spaces and large gathering rooms. On the second floor, it’s only a partial floor. It’s just got the office administrator’s component. It doesn’t have the large gathering rooms.”
Masonic Temple built in 1928
The building itself, which was built in 1928 at 330 12th Avenue S.W., is about 17,000 square feet and the property includes about 50 surface parking stalls.
“The key aspect of the property is, its location bar none. It’s right across from Central Memorial Park . . . right in the absolute heart of the Beltline which is a critical delineation because the Beltline area is growing and it’s becoming more prominent for both residential and office users and it’s starting around that 4th Street, 5th Street core,” said Fisher.
He said the property is within walking distance of the city’s downtown core as well as the popular 17th Avenue entertainment and shopping district: “It’s just really the heart of the Beltline.”
The City of Calgary’s 2019 Property Assessment Notice valued the three lots at just over $8.5 million. The city said the assessment reflects the estimated market value as of July 1, 2018 and the physical conditions as of Dec. 31, 2018.
According to the Calgary Masonic Temple Ltd., its property taxes were $93,622.12 in 2015, then rose to $112,816.96 in 2016 and $128,939.25 in 2017. In 2018, the taxes were $139,934.00, though that was reduced $30,674.75 due to a one-time rebate.
The owner of the property said its estimated 2019 taxes are $158,150.00.
Chad Kretz, chair of the Calgary Masonic Temple, said nine Masonic lodges currently meet and share ownership of the Beltline property.
He said it’s still up in the air what will happen with those lodges following the sale of the property. One possibility is to purchase another parcel of land in the city and construct a new building.
“Ideally we’re hoping to sell the building and we’re trying to figure out exactly what to do. We’re not sure what we’re going to do but we’re hoping to create something that’s sustainable, that will generate revenue for us and give us a meeting space as well with parking stalls for our members,” he said.
Possible redevelopment site
There are a number of unique features in the Masonic Temple including an “enormous” pipe organ. Kretz said the Masons hope to take the pipe organ with them to a new location, as well as the keystone which includes the name of the building.
Fisher said there are different options for the potential buyer of the property, including redevelopment of the site.
“It’s got a high-density component to it. It’s really rare to be able to buy a little over half an acre in the middle of the city. So there’s an opportunity there that a potential developer can take advantage of and develop on the parking, and/or incorporate the building into a larger development,” he said. “There’s about 200,000 square feet of density there.”
If the site were to be redeveloped, Fisher said, either commercial or residential uses would be the most likely type of development. A hotel could also be a possibility.
“The site really lends itself to multiple uses by its zoning. The actual building itself could be re-positioned as a community building like it is now. It could be turned into office. It could be turned into boutique retail,” Fisher said. “So there are some options with the building itself.
“The users that have looked at it and said, ‘We want to keep the historic prevalence of that building intact and reposition it’ are doing so because it’s really hard to find a building with that level of parking available for sale in the Beltline.”