ABOVE: Masonic Lodge 716 was built in 1923. // PHOTO BY VINCE TROIA
By VINCE TROIA
Citing the coming need for new revenue sources, Bellevue’s Masonic Lodge leadership is seeking a zoning change to open the door for commercial development on its Old Harding Pike property.
A community meeting is set for 6 p.m., May 23, at the historic Lodge #716, 7420 Old Harding Pike. The purpose is to inform the community about the group’s intentions for generating enough money to stay in the Bellevue community, said Charles “Charlie” Smith, lodge officer and chaplain.
“We have a near 100-year-old building and upkeep is expensive,” Smith said. In recent years, the lodge has added some improvements, such as new siding and paint. He said a major rebuilding project is needed, not more cosmetic renovations.
“For us, that would be throwing good money after bad,” Smith said. “We don’t want to have a building that’s an embarrassment to the community.”
In April, the lodge filed a zoning request with the Metro Planning Department to amend the Bellevue Community Plan by changing from T3 Neighborhood Maintenance Policy to T3 Neighborhood Center Policy. In essence, the 2.2-acre site is now zoned for residential use, and any future commercial development needs both a Community Plan change and zoning designation.
Metro Planning Commission will get its first looking at the amendment request at its June 13 meeting.
The lodge sits 60 feet west of Bellevue Road and the railroad tracks, with a huge field holding Tennessee Valley Authority footings, towers, and power lines. No new construction can be done on that field, according to the TVA.
Smith said there are no immediate plans to sell the property. However, the zoning request is being done now so that when the property is sold, plans to benefit the lodge, new property owner, and Bellevue itself can proceed.
He envisions a concept down the road where a developer would be willing to help construct a low-density professional office project.
“We’re talking about a dentist’s office, or real estate office,” Smith said. “We would not welcome a check-cashing place or a bar. We really want to stay in Bellevue.”
Smith is hopeful that a new lodge would be part of any new development. He said the 1923 building has some historical significance but is not a preservation project.
“It started as a granary, and when the lodge acquired it, it had been a hardware store,” he said.
At some point, zoning after the hardware store was changed to ‘residential.’ Currently, the property is zoned RS15, or low-medium density residential, requiring a minimum 15,000 square foot lot and intended for single-family dwellings.
Smith hopes an eventual change to Commercial Neighborhood designation is forthcoming. CN allows for very low intensity retail, office, and consumer service uses which provide for the recurring shopping needs of nearby residential areas.