Following years of flagging memberships, Brisbane's most secretive society has been granted development approval for the adaptive reuse of the 1930s-built Brisbane Masonic Centre.
The male-only Freemason temple on Brisbane's Ann Street was sold by the United Grand Lodge of Queensland to the Freemasons' charity, the Board of Benevolence, earlier this year as it could not afford to pay the multi-million bill to make it compliant with fire and safety codes.
Decreased Freemason activity led to the lodgement of the proposal for significant interior renovations to the historic centre. The development was approved on Thursday.
Lodged by the Freemason's charity, the proposal seeks to repurpose unused space and address safety shortcomings of the five-storey sandstone building to position it for a "sustainable future".
At basement level the application proposed a food and drink tenancy and a new opening off Hutton Lane.
The ground floor will undergo a refurbishment but retain masonic use, with conversion of the existing library for lodge room purposes, reconfiguration of rooms for library, offices and supper rooms as appropriate for current membership and new lift access.
[Related reading: 7 Major Projects Add $12bn To Brisbane’s Economy]The first and second floors will see current lodge rooms converted to office space and above on the third floor the Grand Hall will undergo a designed restructure in order to allow for more flexible uses and a greater capacity for formal banquets.
According to the proposal, the desired changes were in response to Masonic Centre’s membership being challenged with falling membership participation to the point that significant excess spaces existing within the current building are not used.
The building also requires costly maintenance and repairs -- with the ongoing Masonic use of the building not feasible into the long term.
The proposal said that income generated from the building's renovation will sustain Freemasons Queensland’s annual maintenance budget.
“Hand Heart Pocket (The Charity of Freemasons Queensland) is seeking to assist the Masonic Centre position itself for a sustainable long term future in Brisbane’s CBD,” the proposal said.
The building was constructed between 1928 and 1930. In April 1921 the United Grand Lodge of Queensland was formed by the union of the 281 Freemasons' lodges in Queensland. To commemorate the union the Grand Lodge agreed to construct a centrally located centre.
The site was purchased in 1922 and cost a total of £6,874.