The Maplewood Moose Lodge, homeless since 2019, has found a new place to hang its antlers.
The Maplewood City Council on Feb. 8 approved rezoning the property at 1832 E. Gervais Court, giving the lodge the go-ahead to turn the warehouse/office building into a social club.
“I have 14 cases of booze in my dining room right now and I can’t wait to get rid of it,” joked Gary Lenart, administrator for Moose Lodge 963. He’s been working out of his home since the former building at 1946 English St. closed.
The lodge had been meeting at the English Street site since 1964, but the building was aging and upkeep was costing more than the lodge could afford.
“The roof was leaking profusely; both parking lots needed to be resurfaced, and the elevator was having issues,” Lenart said. “It was old.”
When the lodge put the property up for sale, the city offered to buy it.
“It’s a prime location for redevelopment because that is the future site of a Rush Line,” said Joe Sheeran, spokesman for the city of Maplewood. “The city felt that was a great opportunity to acquire that piece of land so that we could have a little bit of control over the development.”
The Rush Line Bus Rapid Transit project is a proposed 14-mile transit route with stops between Union Depot in St. Paul’s Lowertown and downtown White Bear Lake, including five proposed stops in Maplewood.
The city tried to help the lodge relocate to another property on the city’s north end by County Road D at 3033 Hazelwood St., but the lodge could not get the financing it needed to build.
Lenart started looking for other options and found the Gervais Court property, formerly owned by Access Power Inc.
“The building was built in 2002 and it’s in beautiful shape,” he said.
The city had to make some adjustments to its comprehensive plan as well. The property’s zoning had been changed to limited business commercial because it and the property to the west, the Saints North Family Skate Center, were going to be part of a senior housing development. That project didn’t happen. The city changed the zoning to light manufacturing, which is what it was before.
With the city’s approval, the lodge is anxious to move in. The building sits on about one acre of land, some of it wooded. The building has two offices and an 1,800-square-foot warehouse where Lenart plans to install a bar. The lodge also needs to put in extra parking in the rear.
The Loyal Order of Moose is a fraternal and service organization founded in 1888 and headquartered in Mooseheart, Ill. Members pay dues which go to support a number of charities.
“We do a lot of community service,” Lenart said. “We donate a lot of money to youth sports teams. We had a dance every other Friday for elderly people to come in and dance to polka and country-western. We try to give back to the community.”
The lodge has suffered a bit from not having a building, although the building likely would have sat empty during the pandemic. Lenart estimates that in 2019 the lodge had over 400 members. About 140 have let their memberships drop, but Lenart thinks they’ll come back once the building is open.
“Congratulations Mr. Lenart and all the members of the Moose club,” Mayor Marylee Abrams said at the meeting. “We look forward to your new location.”
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