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Wichita’s century-old Scottish Rite Center to be repurposed

March 8, 2019 GMT

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — For the first time since 1898, the Scottish Rite Center downtown has sold.

Arkansas-based Beaty Capital Group formed BCG Historic Wichita to buy the building at the northwest corner of First and Topeka. Beaty, with its affiliate, TempleLive Wichita, plans multiuse entertainment and events in the space and also is leasing a small space back to the Scottish Rite, the Wichita Eagle reported.

“We have a history with these historic structures across the country and every time we acquire a new historic building, we are always a bit overwhelmed with the enormous responsibility it places on us to step into, touch and become a part of the history of each community in which we operate,” president Lance Beaty said in a statement.

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The company and other TempleLive affiliates have similar venues in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Cleveland, Ohio.

Beaty Capital primarily has Arkansas ties. No Wichita investors are part of it.

The group specializes in the “development and repositioning of unique and historical assets,” which is what made it interested in Wichita’s Scottish Rite Center.

“This building has been a part of thousands of lives over more than century and we are committed to preserving and honoring that history while preserving the building so that it can be enjoyed by the Wichita community for another century,” Beaty said in his statement.

The Romanesque building was built for the YMCA between 1887 and 1888, and the Scottish Rite Freemasons purchased it in 1898.

“It’s a beautiful building,” said Mike Brown, vice president of operations for TempleLive Wichita. “It’s historic.”

There have been renovations and additions through the years, and the building has been added to historic registries.

The 75,903-square-foot space has a more than 700-seat auditorium and a dining area for 450 people. There’s a 3,000-square-foot commercial kitchen.

Brown said he can’t yet discuss what kind of entertainment might come to the building.

“We’re so into the infancy of the acquisition that it will take us a while to develop that plan.”

The deal, brokered by NAI Martens, closed last month.

Foulston Siefkin represented BCG, and Hinkle Law Firm represented the Scottish Rite.

Brown said no changes are planned for the building except for painting and minor maintenance.

“The Scottish Rite has done a good job of maintaining that building.”

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In addition to entertainment related to arts and music, Brown said the center will continue to rent space for parties, weddings and meetings. For now, those will continue to be booked through the Scottish Rite site.

“We haven’t really programmed the building at this point,” Brown said.

The building will be similar to the Scottish Rite building the group bought in Cleveland and its Masonic building in Fort Smith.

“They’re designed and built for meetings and events,” Brown said. “They need to be preserved.”

Next-door neighbor Diana Gordon, president of the Orpheum Theatre, said she’s “thrilled to have a ... new owner committed to historic preservation.”

“The more great entertainment there is in downtown Wichita, the more downtown Wichita will grow.”

Is there room for more entertainment when the market already has grown with Barleycorn’s and the new Wave?

“Yes, absolutely,” Gordon said. “The younger generation and the young (professionals) in this town, they want more, and that is the growing demographic.”

She said she doesn’t look at her new neighbor “as competition to us but as complementary, seriously.”

“I’m looking forward to meeting and welcoming ... our new neighbors.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com