Lexington officials announced last week that the town is purchasing the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry organization’s headquarters, after the fraternal group accepted its offer of almost $11 million.
The Marrett Road property will be used for a community center. The agreement on the sale price was announced Tuesday night after months of negotiations, and after Town Meeting voted Monday night to appropriate the money. Selectman Peter Kelley said in an announcement on the purchase that it is a historic moment for Lexington, as the town’s 300th anniversary approaches at the end of this month. In a roll call vote of 173 to 2, with 6 abstentions, Town Meeting approved appropriating about $11 million and authorized the Board of Selectmen to purchase the property.
Selectwoman Deb Mauger told Town Meeting that the Scottish Rite’s governing body would decide the next day whether to accept the town’s offer of $10,950,000 .
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our future,” Mauger said. The Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite plans to move into space at its National Heritage Museum, which is next to the 33 Marrett Road headquarters property and is not being sold. The Supreme Council governs the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, which covers 15 states from New England to Wisconsin and Delaware. Representatives from the Scottish Rite could not be reached for comment.
The 10-acre property the town is buying includes the headquarters building, a mansion built in 1905, and a carriage house. Lexington is considering using the property as a community center that would offer services for the town’s senior citizens and its youth. Mauger told Town Meeting members Monday that the town first offered $8 million for the property, but increased the amount twice because of competition from other bidders. The town will use a combination of Community Preservation Act funds, debt, and money from its budget to buy the property. Closing costs are expected to push the final tally for the town above $11 million.
Mauger said Scottish Rite officials will remain in the headquarters until September or October. Only Town Meeting member Charles Hornig spoke in opposition to the purchase Monday night. Hornig said he was not convinced the location is the right place for a community center, and the price tag would leave the town little flexibility in how it could use the property. “The price is quite high, I think we all can agree with that,” Hornig said.
Town Meeting member Pam Hoffman voiced support for the purchase, saying she is hopeful that people of all ages would be able to use a community center on the property, but the purchase would be worth the cost even if senior citizens are the only people to use it.