New chapter for former Elks Lodge

The City of Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday unanimously approved a request aimed to protect the 92-year-old former Elks Temple from trespassers and vandals, and demolish two small, non-heritage additions to the building to make way for future renovation and development.

The building, which has sat empty for decades, was sold in March by relatives of the late Ronald Zimmerman to Portland, Ore.-based developers Williams & Dame. The new owners are reportedly interested in building on an adjacent lot and refurbishing the lodge for various entertainment, retail, or office uses.

However, those development plans won’t take place for a year or more, according to James R. Merritt, principal of Tacoma-based Merritt Arch, who spoke on behalf of the owners during the landmarks commission presentation yesterday. In the interim, the new owners were seeking permission from the commission to make modifications to the building to bar intruders who sleep in the building, set campfires, and loiter on the roof.

“I can’t believe the ingenuity of some of the people who have been getting into this building,” said. “If they could apply that ingenuity to other things, they could really do amazing things.”

According to the application for design review, Williams & Dame, operating as Tacoma Alpha Land Investors, LLC, would spend $85,000 to install a new roofing membrane to protect the building from further water damage; broom-clean the building’s interior; and secure windows and board-up entryways with black double-paned plywood. The owners also plan to demolish two additions to the building — one constructed in 1937, and another constructed in 1948 — in anticipation of future development.

During yesterday’s meeting, the commission approved the permit, including demolition of the additions.

“Neither are contributing to the existing structure and could be removed,” said landmarks preservation chair Michael Fast.

Though not listed on any local or national historic registers, alterations the former Elks Temple require commission approval because it lies within the Old City Hall Historic District.

The former Elks Temple in downtown Tacoma. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)