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Officials mark Masonic Temple sales option to community with signing

LANA MUTHLER/THE EXPRESS Representatives from various institutions stand on the steps of the Lock Haven Masonic Temple.

From staff reports

LOCK HAVEN — Members of the Free & Accepted Masons, Lodge 199 have put their gift to the community of the historic Masonic Temple in downtown Lock Haven in writing.

Lodge 199 and Downtown Lock Haven Inc. (DLH) on Saturday officially signed a five-year sales option agreement that essentially gives the building at Main and Grove streets to the community, provided it can be transformed into a public venue for performing arts, music, community gatherings and other public uses. The Masons would continue to call the temple their home.

“This is a very special day,” said Bob Rolley, downtown board president, as he and Mac Myers and Mike Slack of Lodge 199 signed the document in front of an enthusiastic crowd inside the building.

“First, it’s important that we thank members of Lodge 199 for this gift and for being such great stewards of this building,” Rolley added, noting the stone structure — with its iconic pillars — is nearly 100 years old and that Lodge 199 is celebrating its 175th year in 2020.

LANA MUTHLER/THE EXPRESS From left to right: Mac Myers, Bob Rolley and Mike Slack sign a five-year sales option agreement, giving the Masonic Temple to the community.

“I have a lump in my throat … this is so very exciting.”

Rolley said the signing marks the start of renewed collaboration among various community organizations and institutions — among them the Clinton County Arts Council (CCAC) — to develop a steering committee to help guide the ambitious investment.

He talked about how such a building, whether a cultural, business or community center or a mixture can help to drive more people and more private investment in the city and county.

Arts Council President Carol Cillo pointed to the CCAC’s Station Gallery as an example of “when you put smart action behind passion, you create a solution that’s successful.”

“The concept of a Cultural Center in downtown Lock Haven can be that same kind of success and become something that does not replace what is culturally and economically good in Lock Haven now, but can fill in any missing puzzle pieces to make our lives and this place even better,” Cillo emphasized. “All the good things you enjoy today started with a good idea from a creative mind; whether it is advanced medicine, a stronger bridge, a better hamburger or a good job from a new business in town. So having a place that encourages all these kinds of creative thinking should be our passion.”

“I think the educational and enrichment programs and events the CCAC has supplied over the years — exhibits, performances and festivals like the Lock Haven JAMS festival — can only happen when people really get behind them,” Cillo said.

“This is not something to take away from our existing economic and cultural pie, but it is for us to take the nine-inch pie and make it a 10-inch pie. Then when we add the meringue or the whipped cream on top of that pie, we’re enriching every part of the city — and the county and even the region — so everyone can be on board to enjoy a bigger piece of pie!”

On behalf of Lodge 199, Myers expressed appreciation that the agreement as a first step has come about and he was nearly driven to tears as he talked about the building that has been such as passion for him and his fellow Masons.

The agreement gives DLH up to five years to conduct a feasibility study, a market analysis, to develop a third-party entity to undertake a fundraising campaign and to proceed with preserving and renovating the 1920s-era structure for public use.

On Feb. 28, DLH submitted an application to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for a total $20,000 grant to hire a consultant to perform a feasibility study and market analysis that will help determine best uses for the building and what preservation and renovations would be needed to adapt to those uses while also making it it fully handicap accessible.

To provide the required 50-percent match of those funds, the City of Lock Haven has made application to the state Department of Community and Economic Development for a $10,000 Municipal Assistance Program grant.

A suggested timeline has the feasibility study and market analysis being completed in early 2021.

Subject to successful findings from the feasibility study and market analysis and raising private private donations and grant funding, DLH and CCAC intend to form a third-party entity to own and manage the center as all the stakeholders develop strategies for use, a business plan to generate revenue to sustain the building, and tackle required preservation and renovations.

Built in 1923 as a home to Lodge 199, the property is a significantly historic building within the city’s Water Street Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among those at the signing were Lock Haven Mayor Joel Long, the Clinton County commissioners, state Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, downtown Manager Samantha Eisenhart, city Director of Community Life Kasey Campbell, DLH and CCAC board members, local merchants, representatives of Lock Haven University, Clinton County Economic Partnership, Clinton County Historical Society and others.

Rolley said the two coordinating nonprofits will continue to conduct focus groups to talk about the project with the goal of forming the steering committee by May or June.

“We’re focused on trying to get the major pieces to this investment together within a three-year timeline,” he said.

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