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Lansing City Council members oppose Masonic Temple building for new City Hall

The Masonic Temple has seven floors and columns at its entrance.
Arjun Thakkar
The Masonic Temple is on Capitol Avenue, about one block south from the current city hall building.

Plans to turn the Masonic Temple building in Lansing into a new city hall are reaching an impasse, with members of the City Council blocking the proposal amid concerns with transparency.

Lansing is receiving $40 million in state funding to fund renovations and historic preservation for a facility to host city offices and services. After requesting new proposals, Mayor Andy Schor opted to work with the Boji Group to purchase and renovate the Masonic Temple building at 217 S. Capitol Ave.

The council deadlocked last month, voting down an agreement to purchase the building. Now, in a letter sent to Schor, Councilmembers Ryan Kost, Jeffrey Brown, Tamera Carter and Trini Lopez-Pehlivanoglu said they are skeptical about the plan.

"The people of Lansing have stated they do not feel the process of biding (sic) and open transparency was delivered in deciding where the "New Home" of Lansing would be located nor the community engagement to learn and hear the desired amenities such as access, parking, and proper accommodations for the elderly and people with disabilities," the councilmembers wrote.

The group also stated the Masonic Temple building would be "extremely under-utilized" because its footprint is larger than the city's current need for space.

The letter asks the city to run a new 30-day bid process to consider its options.

In an interview with WKAR, Brown said officials haven’t been clear about why they chose the Masonic Temple. He claims the city has not presented a specific site plan and proposal for the facility, arguing there weren't enough details to vote for the move.

“How did we come to the conclusion that this is the best building for our new home, because the process was not transparent and open to the people,” he said.

“I think it's a wonderful building. And I think they're great developers. But for me to make an informed decision as a representative of the people without having any information, it's not possible to even make a decision or to make a vote.”

Scott Bean, a spokesperson for Mayor Schor, said the city will not reopen proposals for the city hall, arguing the move would be unprecedented.

"This would make all future RFPs (requests for proposals) the City issues and awards worth little, and would greatly discourage people from bidding in the future," Bean said in a statement. "Allowing a losing bid to later come back and disrupt the process and undercut the winner would have a chilling effect on future development RFPs."

Bean said the mayor's office intends to address concerns with the plan and may consider alternatives if the City Council will not approve the Masonic Temple proposal.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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