Gross Becomes Official New Owner of Jacksonville Masonic Center

By Benjamin Cox on July 10, 2020 at 8:37am

The Jacksonville Masonic Center has changed hands once again. Local property owner Will Gross worked out a deal with Mike Doyle & his partners to purchase the property within the last two weeks. Gross said he likely would have purchased the property during the auction, but he ran into a few snags: “I got in on the auction, and the system locked me out because I was making minimum bid increments at the last moment before the end of the auction. After 4 or 5 cycles of that, I didn’t realize it would lock you out so I lost it at the bidding process. The way I understood the intentions of Mr. Doyle was that he wanted to turn it into apartments. I couldn’t let that happen to this building. I decided I’m going to live on the 3rd floor of it and I’m renting the second floor.”

Gross said he’s going to do some minor renovations to the building and has intentions of renting out spaces to various types of business and tenants: “There will be a one-bedroom apartment and a professional office area with a walk-in vault with some higher end [tenants] whether it be some architects, lawyers, or somebody. The Harmony Masonic Lodge will have use of the smaller lodge room on the second floor. Then, the banquet hall downstairs will be rented out for public use and for the Masonic Lodge to hold their organizational dinners and what not, promotions, and fundraising events.”

Gross says the second floor is almost move-in ready, but he wants to gauge interest of potential renters before doing specific renovations. Gross is a member of the Jacksonville Area Landlords Association, and he said the property will be listed for rent on their website soon. A sign is up in the front yard soliciting possible renters currently. Gross said he just hated the idea of having the building chopped up into apartments.

Frank Cline of the local Harmony Lodge says that the lodge got the best of both worlds with the new ownership with a lifetime lease: “The Masonic Lodge is still meeting in the Masonic Center or Temple, whichever you wish to call it; so, we’ve kind of gotten the best of both worlds. We are out from under the expense, but we are renters so you are, to a point, subjected to what the landlord wants, but he’s been very, very wonderful to us.”

Cline says that the lodge is no longer looking for a place to move, and he’s glad that they will have access to the dining room for their 3 annual fundraisers in the future. Cline says that selling the building to someone with the integrity of the building and the Masons in mind was able to both preserve the building and the meeting space. Cline says that the local lodge wouldn’t have been able to rent the space like Gross without incurring major expense: “The Masonic Lodge, back when George Ryan was Secretary of State, he helped pass a law to get us an 80% property tax reduction; but if we brought in renters, we would lose that property tax reduction. You, in effect, would have to gain a lot of rent. There is a boiler system heater, so our utility bills would have skyrocketed. We would have had to put in air conditioning, which also would have raised the utility bills. We just could not afford to do that. Now that Will will have commercial renter property in there, he will be paying the full taxes and he can do a lot more things with the building than the Masonic Lodge could have. That’s why selling it to somebody like Will and renting it back was great for us.”

If you are interested in looking at the rental portions of the building, you can contact Will Gross at 217-883-2802.