The conversion of the Masonic Center into apartments takes a new step

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The planned conversion of the historic Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center in downtown Milwaukee into upscale apartments took another step forward on Monday.

The Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission voted to approve a staircase that extends above the roof line of the building, 790 N. Van Buren St.

This staircase, along with four penthouse units on the roof, is part of the redevelopment of the old Masonic center into 22 apartments by the new owner of Northfield, Ill., Saxony Capital LLC.

These two and three bedroom units will range from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, according to plans filed with the commission.

The action of the commission paves the way for the start of the renovation works.

Part of the work has already started on the site, with an interior demolition permit issued this fall by City building inspectors.

The commission approved in March larger plans for the building’s conversion, including the removal of 20 stained-glass windows. Board approval is required for changes outside of ownership.

The building was constructed as a church in 1889 and became a Masonic facility in 1912.

Scottish Rite sold the building to Madison-based Ascendant Real Estate Holdings LLC in 2017 for $ 3.5 million as the fraternal organization’s dwindling membership could no longer afford to maintain it.

The commission in 2017 approved Ascendant’s plan to convert the Masonic Center into a hotel lobby, restaurant, and meeting rooms, with a 14-story hotel tower atop the building.

But Ascendant’s proposal did not get funding.

Tom Daykin can be emailed to [email protected] and followed by Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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