Local developer has plans to preserve Masonic Home
By Perris Njenga - Staff Reporter
Imagine being a free-range child in a castle like the Old Masonic Home on South 240th Street and Marine View Drive.
Patrick Reilly was that child. His father served in the Army with a fellow who became part of the maintenance department at the Masonic Home, Reilly said. His name is Orville Williams and he was in the Army Corp of Engineers. He knew about buildings, engeneering, and maintenance.
Reilly's father was life-long friends with Williams family, "So, we'd go visit there.
"I'd get to explore the building and go around with Mr. Williams," Reilly said.
He built some work lofts in the buildings just south of the Rainier Brewery, he said. He partnered with a local group of investors.
"They repurposed that campus of buildings," right next to the brewery, he said.
His interest in the building is preserving it and the grounds around it, Reilly said.
Some of his ideas for the building are a community garden with a master gardener, a children's theater and community theater, art walks and studio space for artists and musicians.
Speaking about the extensive front lawn area, Reilly said other developers want to add buildings in front of the Landmark Lodge, blocking the view of the Landmark, but it would also, take up that yard that the rest of the community uses up front.
"There are five elements to activate that front yard to the community," he said.
"One is, in the circular drive, there's a nice garden," he said. He wants to work with a master gardener program to make that garden a showcase that the community can walk through and admire the different species and the design of the garden," he said.
"And to have that fountain as the centerpiece to that," he said.
He has been to the Equinox studios in Georgetown as well as the Beemis Building art openings.
About art walks, he said, they would choose a reoccuring date when you can walk around and see the art, whether it is inside or out in the garden.
"Hopefully other galleries and other places will join along," he said.
"You start your art walk at the Landmark and then end up at other places in town," he said.
"I think we can grow an arts community," he said. "I've seen it in Georgetown and in Seattle in Pioneer Square where we first started 20 years ago with some art studio space on First Avenue. The 15 artists there just started opening up their studios so others could visit," he said.
He said he's been working with the city manager, Michael Matthias, who is very active in the arts, very supportive. Matthias is going to make the introduction to the Des Moines Theater music group.
"In the basement of the Masonic Home, I want to convert into musician space where they can practice," he said.
"There is a purchase and sale agreement on the property, and there's earnest money on the property, that will complete the sale once we get the approvals from the community and the city," he said.
It will be a little more than $4 million dollars to bring the property up to code, he said.
"With the caviat that you never really know how much it's going to be," he said.
"We really want to do the development that honors the legacy to what the Masons have done," he said.
"That was really a progressive and phillentropic effort for them to have built a retirement home of such quality for folks 100 years ago," he said.
"They built a beautiful, beautiful building that's really the gem of the community," he said.
To honor that and try to activate and formalize the use of those gardens and that tremendous view for everybody," said Reilly.
"Not just to preserve the building – what good is that if you can't invite the community in those gardens and do things that involve the use of that building with the rest of the community?" he said.
"Let me say this, the city of Des Moines has been outstanding to work with," he said.
"They really have the best interest of the community and they're going above and beyond. They are working very hard on behalf of the community,"Reilly said.