Masonic Lodge

Developer Todd Nelson’s plans to renovate and convert the former Masonic Lodge in downtown Faribault to apartments were reviewed by the city's Historic Preservation Commission on Monday. (Daily News file photo)

Faribault’s Heritage Preservation Commission endorsed developer Todd Nelson’s plans for the old Masonic Lodge Monday, but not before insisting on a change to a door the commission believes is more in keeping with the historic downtown district.

The commission's OK provided one of the last authorizations needed on a project that has been a hot topic at City Hall for months.

Nelson purchased the old Masonic Lodge building on Central Avenue from the Masons last year with the intention of transforming it into apartments. The owner of Faribault-based Dynamic Electric, Nelson currently owns several apartment buildings throughout Rice County.

The Faribault Masons are one of the oldest chapters in the state and its hall had been in the group’s hands since its completion in 1875. Given its unique history and location in the heart of the downtown district, Nelson’s design was subject to the HPC’s vetting.

In addition, Nelson’s plans have been altered to accommodate requests from the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and City Council. The HRA insisted that the developer make some of the units affordable in exchange for $270,000 in city funding. The council subsequently asked Nelson to scale his project back slightly and offer more basic on-site amenities. He agreed to reduce the number of units in the complex from nine to eight, making room for onsite trash and laundry and winning the council’s approval.

The HPC had previously issued certificates of appropriateness for Nelson’s plan to install windows on the east and north sides. However Nelson’s plans also include new windows and will also be installed on the west and south sides.

Nelson pledged that windows on all four sides would follow a similar design. The first floor will also be restored along the lines of plans first proposed in 1949, though the current stores will continue to inhabit it.

In total, the HPC’s goal is to not just maintain the building but to restore much of its character. Despite its rich history, the old Masonic Lodge building underwent several renovations that altered its appearance.

Because its current appearance is so at odds with surrounding storefronts representing the classic Italiente and Queen Anne styles of design, the building was not even included as a contributing building in the city’s original historic district.

While the overall appearance is designed to evoke historic architecture, the rolling door necessitated by the council’s insistence on on-site trash storage has a decidedly modern and industrial look.

HPC Commissioner Karl Vohs said he was concerned the door’s appearance would be particularly jarring. Vohs asked Housing and Redevelopment Coordinator Kim Clausen if other options are available, but she expressed skepticism.

“I’m not sure what alternative there would be to allowing the trash enclosure to be there,” Clausen said. “This was considered to be the best location for it.”

As a potential alternative, Vohs suggested a double door could provide improved aesthetics and style. The idea won support from other commissioners, who also dislike the rolling door’s appearance.

Nelson said that the double-door format could make sense, though he rejected Vos’ suggestion that it be made of frosted glass out of concern that the dumpster or dump truck could shatter the glass. Instead, he said the door should be steel and painted to match the store front.

Reach Reporter Andrew Deziel at 507-333-3129 or follow him on Twitter @FDNandrew. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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