By Seth Schmidt
If all goes as expected, the Masonic Temple building will be only a memory one month from now.
The Tracy City Council issued an “order to proceed” with the demolition of the Masonic building Monday night. Noomen Excavating of Currie now has 30 days to complete the demolition of the Masonic building and the adjacent KMHL building.
In May, the council accepted a $54,950 bid from Noomen Excavating to raze the structures, and haul the debris to a state-approved disposal site. The council had waited to give Noomen the order to begin the demolition until all necessary state permits had been approved. Public Works Director Shane Daniels informed the council Monday that the “permit by rule” paperwork allowing the demolition rubble to be buried at the city’s compost site had been approved.
No date has been announced for starting the demolition. But Councilman Bill Chukuske said that it’s his understanding, that Noomen is ready to begin the job as soon as notification is received.
A long-term, low-interest loan, from the Minnesota Department of Economic Development will finance the demolition.
Tara Onken, Tracy Economic Development Authority coordinator, spearheaded the city’s loan application. She told council members that the 2017 legislature did not renew the loan program, so she felt fortunate that Tracy had secures its financing before the program ended.
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The Tracy Masonic building was built in 1926. For many years, the building was a busy hub of the downtown, with a medical and dental clinic on its middle floor, Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star functions on the top floor, and two street- level storefronts. The city council meeting room and the city library were once located in the building’s basement.
The medical clinic closed in the 1970s, after a new clinic was built near Tracy hospital. Declining membership for the Masonic lodge, and on-going maintenance expenses, caused the lodge to sell the building for a nominal sum in 1998. New owner Dick Stelter rented space in the building to several tenants over about the next 10 years, including Rainbow Pre-School, Morgan St. Salon, Tracy Tae Kwon Do School, and the Larry Parker computer and office supply store.
In 2012, the Masonic Lodge moved out of the building, and in 2013, the Tracy Economic Development Authority acquired the property when it went tax-forfeit to the State of Minnesota.
Today, the Masonic building is in a badly deteriorated condition, with extensive water damage from a leaking roof and many boarded up windows.
The Tracy EDA purchased the KMHL building this spring for $8,000, and decided to also raze that building, because that was less than the expense of protecting the structure during the Masonic demolition. Kyleen Olson Photography, the last tenant in the KMHL building, moved out last month.
The Wheels Across the Prairie Museum has salvaged a number of artifacts and fixtures from the Masonic building.