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With hip ambitions, investment firm to redevelop Masonic Lodge in downtown St. Pete

The aging Masonic Temple in downtown St. Petersburg at Fourth Street and 2nd Avenue S will be redeveloped by area investor Blake Whitney Thompson. A final project design has not yet been decided. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
Published Jul. 14, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — A St. Petersburg-based investment firm is purchasing the Masonic Lodge building in downtown St. Petersburg with a broad menu of development options.

Blake Whitney Thompson, the founder and CEO of Blake Investment Partners, is open to rent the "boutique" space for an art studio, office space, tech firms, food hall or even a rooftop bar. He estimates a multimillion dollar renovation, depending on the potential tenants.

"Normally, I have investors who want me to have an answer to everything before closing," Thompson said. "But because the asset is so special and in the middle of downtown that is not the case."

The Masonic Lodge, which is about 13,000-square-foot, features three floors and a rooftop deck located at 114 Fourth Street South. The space also offers tall ceilings, natural light and a parking lot.

Downtown development has skyrocketed in recent years. This area has been especially brisk lately with the opening of new stores, restaurants, bars and additional apartment complexes.

"It's an active place," said Sophia Sorolis, the manager of economic development for the city. "The demand for downtown space is the highest it has ever been. It's a hot market."

The idea of the Masonic Lodge becoming a co-working or a multi-use facility reminds Sorolis of Station House, located nearby on 1st Avenue South, which serves as a home to business startups, co-working space, a new restaurant and coffee shop, and a coding school.

RELATED COVERAGE: Ichicoro Ramen to open sister restaurant in downtown St. Pete's Station House.

"The success of Station House may have others looking at this concept for St. Petersburg," she said.

The block where the lodge is located has been troublesome for some business owners, however. It's across from the street from the German beer hall Hofbrauhaus, formerly the Tampa Bay Times cafeteria, which opened to much fanfare in 2015 but the crowds have since thinned. Parks & Rec, a sports bar, replaced a flailing World of Beer. Next door, a restaurant called Proper replaced a struggling pizza place.

Thompson said he may be willing to help potential tenants in financing their own renovation in the property's renovations.

"I am open to every idea," he said. "Not a lot of developers can say that they are looking for the hippest, coolest things we can bring into downtown St. Pete."

Blake Investment Partners, which was founded in 2003, has signed a contract to buy the property, submitted a nonrefundable deposit, and agreed to help the Masonic Lodge organization relocate. The development firm operates in seven states in the southeast.

Contact Tierra Smith at tsmith@ tampabay.com or (414) 702-5006. Follow @bytierrasmith.

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