East Price Hill has a grand events space in its sights to bookend its Incline District

CINCINNATI – With East Price Hill's eastern border secured with a thriving theater and Incline Public House, boosters plan to spread the wealth westward with a $10 million rebirth of a grand Masonic Lodge.

Price Hill Will and friends plan to add an anchor to bookend a redevelopment corridor by transforming the dilapidated Masonic lodge on Price and Purcell avenues into a magnet for wedding receptions, concerts and special events of all sorts.

The upstairs theater inside the Price Hill Masonic lodge. Phil Didion | WCPO contributor

"Beside the historic significance for the neighborhood, we also saw the renovation as an opportunity for it to be an event space for the west side in general," Jay Kratz, Price Hill Will director of real estate development, said.

The 21,000-square-foot brick building features two theaters stacked atop each other, both of which can hold groups of about 120 people. Samuel Hannaford & Sons, the legendary architect of Cincinnati icons Music Hall and City Hall, designed the lodge, which opened in 1912.

The Masons sold the building in the late 1980s, and it has fallen into severe disrepair, requiring all-new wiring, plumbing and other major renovations. But its bones are strong, and features like stained-glass skylights and hardwood floors will be restored.

Stained glass windows atop the Masonic lodge theater in Price Hill. Phil Didion | WCPO contributor

Price Hill Will bought the building in 2014 and is hoping to secure historic tax credits by June to secure financing for the project. Model Group and City Studios are part of the redevelopment team. 

The neighborhood development group plans to eventually move its offices into the lodge's basement, and it envisions the theater becoming a regular performance venue for MYCincinnati youth orchestra, a free musical group that is thriving in Price Hill.

"The Masonic Lodge is the last significant building along Price Avenue that the market is not going to take care of by itself," Price Hill Will Executive Director Ken Smith said.

Kratz estimated that the rehab will take 18 months to two years once work has begun.

"We see this as one of the cultural anchors. If you look at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater at the one end of the Incline District and this toward the other end, the infill development would become a cultural corridor for the neighborhood," he said.

"It will definitely be a catalyst for some more restaurants and hopefully some shopping venues," Kratz said.

Some of that secondary development has already begun with the opening of Bloc Coffee Company and Somm Wine Bar and Veracruz Mexican Grill on Price Avenue.

But large swaths of property between the Masonic Lodge and the theater are cleared and waiting for redevelopment, along with existing storefronts that are vacant.

"It will definitely be a catalyst for some more restaurants and hopefully some shopping venues," Kratz predicted.

Follow Bob Driehaus covers economic development. Contact him and follows stories on Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

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