CRE Midwest

Leopardo and tvsdesign set to deliver Scottish Rite headquarters

| markt

The $35 million Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago’s new headquarters is nearly complete in west suburban Bloomingdale, where the development team of Leopardo Construction and tvsdesign met the unique challenges of designing a multipurpose facility for the Freemasons.

Development Profile: Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago Headquarters

Fast Facts Location: 383 E. Lake Street (at the Medinah Road intersection) Bloomingdale, Ill. Size: 61,000-square-feet Features: 270-seat auditorium theater, 290-seat dining hall, bar and full-service kitchen, traditional Masonic lodge hall, museum, library, and administrative offices. Substantial completion: December 2011 Architect: tvsdesign Construction Manager: Leopardo Cos., Inc. Owner Representative: Core Project Management Group, Inc.

The $35 million Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago’s new headquarters is nearly complete in west suburban Bloomingdale, where the development team of Leopardo Construction and tvsdesign met the unique challenges of designing a multipurpose facility for the Freemasons.

For 100 years, the Scottish Rite Cathedral has been at the corner of Dearborn and Walton Streets in Chicago, directly across from Washington Square Park. Until recently, the location had always been a convenient gathering site for the fraternal organization associated with the Freemasons. After an internal study of current members revealed that a majority of the group had migrated from the north shore to the western suburbs, the fraternal organization decided to look west for a new location where it could build a facility.

After a year-long search that included 60 different sites, the organization settled on Bloomingdale, where it paid $10 million for a 16.25-acre-site. The group would invest another $25 million into the new, 61,000-square-foot facility. The $35 million was an all-cash investment with many of the proceeds coming from the sale of the Dearborn st. location.

Scottish Rite is one of the numerous appendant organizations associated with Freemasonry. There are three degrees of Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. When a member obtains the Master Mason designation, he may decide to continue other Masonic pursuits by joining one of the appendant bodies, such as the Scottish Rite.

The Freemasons describe themselves as a fraternal organization, and although words such as cathedral, ritual, or ceremony, are often used when discussing the group’s activities, it does not have any religious or political affiliation. Its roots can date back to the late 16th century and now it boasts six million members worldwide, including 2.5 million in the U.S. and 68,000 in Illinois. The order has counted many prominent Americans among its ranks, including 14 U.S. Presidents, Benjamin Franklin, astronaut John Glen, politician Bob Dole, and military leader and statesman Colin Powel.

Winning such a large build-to-suit in an otherwise stagnant construction market was a significant achievement for Leopardo and tvsdesign, which have both been associated with the project since March of 2010.

According to Michael Behm, senior vice president with Leopardo, the development is unique because it houses so many different elements, but it also presented several challenges.

Stone is obviously a major element that is highlighted in a Masonic development. The development team wanted to find ways to incorporate stone into the design, but also wanted to find ways to realize cost savings for the owners where possible. The result ended in a mixture of mason work and less expensive precast. The building has a limestone base and masonry work figures prominently in the reception area. While the front facade holds with the traditional appearance of a Masonic facility, the precast work in less prominent areas makes the project much more affordable.

“We wanted to use precast to simulate limestone where it was logical,” says Behm. “It is a cost saver.”

In order to keep gatherings friendly to its residential neighbors while providing for a balanced site, the theater was partially recessed into grade. Due to the large number of members and visitors to the building, a strong and easily navigable circulation spine was incorporated to integrate the diverse program elements.

The building also has many subtle design elements to it that may not be apparent to a visitor, but fit in with the traditions and beliefs of the Scottish Rites.

According to Marc Adelman, principal with tvsdesign, the landscaping along the edge of the property is rough and systematically becomes more refined and groomed as it approaches the building. This signifies the continued development and improvement of members as they continue on their Masonic journey.

The design also called for creating a mock River Jordan that could be used in ceremonial procedures, developing extra protection, security, and climate controls for the group’s valuable works of art, and dealing with sound issues that could arise in the building’s cavernous, cathedral-like main hall.

The architects were also able to incorporate elements from the organization’s previous facility by transporting some of the original wooden doors and wainscoting from the Dearborn St. location and installing them into the Bloomingdale facility.