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Members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles plan to move from their historic lodge across from the Bartholomew County Courthouse to the empty, former Wonder Bread store farther north on Washington Street.
The 700-member club has been at 217¹/2 Washington Street since the early 1940s, but members are having difficulty with parking and there is no space for smokers to congregate, said Chuck Zapfe, the bar manager.
“The old building has, of course, a lot of memories, but the parking has become such a hindrance for us with the development of downtown,” Zapfe said.
Zapfe said the lodge members used to be able to park downtown in the evenings, but with the increased bustle of activity downtown, that no longer is possible.
The empty Wonder Bread storefront, at 930 Washington St., has been listed for sale at $625,000, or $67.34 per square foot, by Breeden Commercial Real Estate. It is owned by the Hilger-Fox family trust.
Richard Garvin, the Eagles lodge president, said the lodge expects to put in between $200,000 and $300,000 in renovations to the building. He said the club plans to make the building more attractive, inside and out, with a complete renovation.
Zapfe said plans include two-tone, earth-tone paint for the outside and installation of patio areas outside the current loading doors. During the summer, he expects the lodge to open the bay doors, giving the club more of an open-air feel.
Garvin said the new location also will be close to the Moose Lodge, and the Eagles will be a more natural fit in that neighborhood.
The new location will be about 4,000 square feet smaller than the Eagles’ current loft, but they will be better able to utilize the 9,300-square-foot location, Garvin said.
When the city’s smoking ban went into effect this summer, the Eagles lodge was forced to close its indoor smoking area. But because the current location is hemmed in on all sides by city sidewalks and alleys, there is no location for smokers.
The new location will allow for an area set aside for smokers outside that will be heated in the winter, Garvin said.
“We have patrons that both smoke and do not smoke; it’s important to appease both of those parties,” Garvin said.
The former Wonder Bread discount store and Hostess storage facility was closed during the Hostess and Wonder Breads bankruptcy last year and was vacated in January, said Tara Board, who has been marketing the location for Breeden.
The building was built in 1948, and a Standard grocery store occupied the location in the late 1950s, according to the city/county planning department.
“I am excited for the Eagles because I think they are a perfect fit for the building,” Board said. “I think it will be a huge benefit to downtown in general. Downtown seems to be spreading north as it is, and this will be a nice improvement to a building that needed a little attention.”
Funding for the new lodge location already has been approved through First Financial Bank, Garvin said. The move still needs to win approval from city government, however.
The Columbus Plan Commission approved the lodge’s request to change from neighborhood center zoning to downtown center zoning. It must now be approved by City Council and that hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1. The lodge also will have to seek approval of the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals because clubs are a conditional use in the downtown center zoning district.
Garvin expects the work to begin on the new location by early November and the building across from the courthouse then will go up for sale. Zapfe said he expected it to be sold for use as office space.
The first floor of the existing lodge houses Dancers Studio Inc. Alma Wiley, the nonprofit studio’s executive director, said she has begun looking for new locations.
“It is an old building and normally I walk in and go ‘Oh, this needs painted, there is a stain on the carpet, the back door needs work,’” Wiley said. “Now that there is a possibility that we are leaving, I walk in and go ‘I love it here!’ And I love being downtown.”
She said the studio does not have the finances to consider buying the building outright and she expects its downtown location to make it prime commercial property.
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